DEVELOPING CUSTOM ASSAYS TO HELP STARTUPS AND SMALL BUSINESSES PARTICIPATE IN THE REALM OF CANCER IMMUNOTHERAPY

Likarda routinely conducts assay development for projects ranging from a disease model to searching for a particular mechanism of action. Our clients, large and small, rely on our team to design assay systems that answer their questions to guide them to the next stage, or not.

One growing area of assay use is new cancer immunotherapies discovery. While big pharmaceutical companies are ahead of the curve in this area with some of their cancer immunotherapies already on the market, startups and small companies can participate in this realm with a partner who performs bench-top assays that definitively answer their question: does my treatment work as an immune-oncology therapy?

It starts with the immune system
The immune system functions to detect and destroy foreign entities like pathogens and cancerous cells.  The ability of the immune cells to identify cancer cells and destroy them is at the heart to cancer prevention. Today, due to advanced understanding of the cancer cell and immune system interaction, revolutionary new cancer treatments, called immunotherapies, are in the research labs and treatment centers. (Greil et al., 2017).

Tumors in 3D help immune cells recognize cancer cells
One of the challenges in this field is recreating the complex immune system/tumor interaction in a petri dish so that new immunotherapies can be identified and studied in a timely manner.  Yet, the microenvironment surrounding the tumor is essential to successfully predicting whether the immunotherapy will be effective in the body. The drawing shows that when the cancer cells are laid down in the bottom of a petri dish in a 2D monolayer, their interaction with the immune cells (shown in red) is only in one dimension and they cannot infiltrate the cells.

In contrast, when the same cancer cells are grown into a 3D miniature tumor using Likarda’s proprietary micromolds, the immune cells interact more naturally and when attacking the tumor, infiltrate into the core of the tumor.  Many studies have shown that a 3D tumor model is advantageous when searching for the ability of the immune cells to recognize the cancer cells (Hirt et al. 2014).

Immune cells in a 2D monolayer are restricted to interacting with cancer cells in one dimension. However, immune cells grown in a 3D model can attack and infiltrate at the core of a 3D tumor model. 3D testing gives better predictability for immune cells recognizing and responding to cancer cells.

3D assays offer better predictability for our clients
Likarda developed one of the most robust assays for immunotherapy screening, and works with both primary cells and cultured cell lines. Our researchers have more than 15 different types of cancer cells for which we have developed 3D assays that better mimic the body’s microenvironment. The types of cancer cell we employ for therapeutic testing continues to expand in response to emerging discoveries.

Learn more about Likarda’s research in testing new drugs to fight cancer and our assay development work.

Fighting cancer:
Arum Palaestinum with isovanillin, linolenic acid and β-sitosterol inhibits prostate cancer spheroids and reduces the growth rate of prostate tumors in mice

Assay development:
A simple, reliable method for high-throughput screening for diabetes drugs using 3D β-cell spheroids
Assessment of re-aggregated human pancreatic islets for secondary drug screening

Article References:

  • Greil et al. 2017. Reactivation of dormant anti-tumor immunity – a clinical perspective of therapeutic immune checkpoint modulation. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28100240
  • Hirt et al. 2014. “In vitro” 3D models of tumor-immune system interactions. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24819215

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