A team of researchers from Politecnico di Milano and Humanitas University has developed a 3D personalized model of biliary tract cancer derived from patient cells. This breakthrough, published in the Journal of Hepatology Reports, involves a microchip that serves as a patient-specific organ-on-chip. The model, only a few centimeters in size, contains microchannels that accurately represent a biliary tract cancer called cholangiocarcinoma, along with its tumor microenvironment.
This 3D model is constructed from a sample of patient cancer cells, making it a personalized organ-on-chip. This technology, which merges biomedicine, physics, and engineering, aims to accelerate research on cholangiocarcinoma and advance precision medicine. It could potentially be used as a personalized drug-testing platform, helping to predict patients’ responses to therapies.
Cholangiocarcinoma, a rare and aggressive liver cancer, often goes undiagnosed until an advanced stage due to minimal symptoms, making treatments less effective. The new model can recapitulate the disease’s characteristics, particularly the interaction between tumor cells and immune system cells, which are crucial in its progression and response to drugs.
The microfluidic chip, a few centimeters in size, contains micrometer channels created using advanced photolithographic techniques. Cancer cells from patients with cholangiocarcinoma are seeded in these channels, successfully reproducing the tumor architecture in vitro. The model also includes fibroblasts, T cells, and endothelial cells to add complexity and improve reliability.
The researchers demonstrated that the device accurately reflects individual patient responses, both in terms of T-cell activation correlating with tumor infiltration and therapeutic response to different drugs. Future steps include optimizing the device as a research model and drug-testing platform, adding cells of the innate immune system, introducing micropumps to mimic blood flow, and testing it on larger patient groups.