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International collaboration to create new cancer models to accelerate research

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by Cancer Research UK | News

11 July 2016

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An international project to develop a large, globally accessible, bank of new cancer cell culture models for the research community launches today.

“These new cell lines could transform how we study cancer and could help to develop better treatments for patients.” – Dr Ian Walker

The National Cancer Institute (NCI), Cancer Research UK, the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute and the foundation Hubrecht Organoid Technology are joining forces to develop the Human Cancer Models Initiative (HCMI) which will bring together expertise from around the world to make around 1,000 cancer cell models.

Using new techniques to grow cells, scientists can make models which will better resemble the tissue architecture and complexity of human tumours than the cell lines used today.

Dr Ian Walker, Cancer Research UK’s director of clinical research, said: “This exciting new project means that we can expand our resources for researchers around the world. We want scientists to have the best resources to be able to easily study all types of cancer. And these new cell lines could transform how we study cancer and could help to develop better treatments for patients.”

Scientists will make the models using tissue from patients with different types of cancer, potentially including rare and children’s cancers, which are often under-represented or not available at all in existing cell line collections.

Dr Louis Staudt, director of NCI’s Center for Cancer Genomics, said: “As part of NCI’s Precision Medicine Initiative in Oncology, this new project is timed perfectly to take advantage of the latest cell culture and genomic sequencing techniques to create models that are representative of patient tumours and are annotated with genomic and clinical information. This effort is a first step towards learning how to use these tools to design individualised treatments.”

The new models have the potential to reflect the biology of tumours more accurately and better represent the patient population.

The tumour and the derived models will be genetically sequenced. Researchers will have access to this information, as well as the anonymised clinical data about the patients and their tumour.

The HCMI collaborators aim to speed up development of new models and to make research more efficient by avoiding unnecessary duplication of scientific efforts.

Dr Mathew Garnett, group leader at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, said: “New cancer model derivation technologies are allowing us to generate even more and improved cancer models for research. A concerted and coordinated effort to make new models will accelerate this process, while also allowing for rapid learning, protocol sharing, and standardised culturing methods.”

Dr Hans Clevers of the foundation Hubrecht Organoid Technology, said: “We are delighted to take part in this global partnership to make new resources for researchers.”

HCMI could transform research and will allow scientists to study many aspects of cellular biology and cancer, including how the disease progresses, drug resistance, and the development of precision medicine treatments. 


For media enquiries please contact the Cancer Research UK press office on 020 3469 8300 or, out-of-hours, the duty press officer on 07050 264 059.