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Berlin is knorke: Personalised cancer treatment

31. July 2023 - The Berlin-based company ASC Oncology is a pioneer in the field of modern cancer research and has developed a future-oriented process with 3D cell cultures. In this way, cancer drugs that might be suitable for treatment can already be tested in the laboratory, meaning that the best possible individual treatment for the patient can be determined. Ineffective drug therapies can therefore be avoided.

ASC Oncology was founded in 2019 by pathologists, biologists, biochemists, biotechnologists and tumour biologists with the vision of modern cancer research. With Reverse Clinical Engineering® (RCE), the Berlin-based company has developed a test procedure that helps cancer patients to find the best possible treatment tailored to their needs.

The basis of the procedure is the removal of fresh tumour tissue from the cancer patient. For this purpose, fresh tumour tissue is taken from them by their attending doctors in the course of a biopsy or resection. The samples are then sent to the ASC Oncology laboratory, where the team of scientists starts work.

To put it very simply, copies are now grown from the fresh tissue samples. Specifically, this means that the living tumour cells of the patient are prepared in the laboratory and cultivated in a matrix. This matrix resembles human tissue structures and therefore makes it possible to mimic the complex environment of a tumour. In addition, the growth of tumour cells is promoted in the matrix and the proliferation of non-cancerous cells is limited. Accordingly, the tumour samples develop into 3D cell cultures that, like the tumour itself, are spatially organised and display the genomic, molecular and phenotypic characteristics of the tumour.

In consultation with the treating oncologists, the cloned tumours can now be used to test suitable drugs, such as classic chemotherapies and targeted cancer treatments. All substances can be tested individually or as combinations. ASC Oncology then prepares a report with a detailed evaluation and graphical representations of the data as well as recommendations

for action for the treating physicians. In this way, the most effective medication for the patient can be determined before the treatment begins.

This innovative method of making a personalised and highly effective treatment recommendation is particularly important because ineffective treatments can worsen the prognosis of cancer patients. The likelihood that they will respond to treatment decreases due to, for example, the development of resistance. In addition, the RCE test procedure is of particular importance for rare or advanced tumours, because in these cases there is sometimes little data on treatment options. The aim of ASC Oncology is to support patients with their decision for the best possible personalised effective treatment, to spare them unpromising therapies and the associated side effects and thereby to contribute to a better quality of life and a higher chance of survival.

International studies have demonstrated the use of tumour organoids for improved personalised treatment, and since 2017 the procedure has been recommended by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) as a “best practice approach”.

The Reverse Clinical Engineering® test procedure is highly complex and was developed over many years of research in order to make advances in modern cancer research accessible to patients for personalised treatment. This makes the Berlin company a pioneer in the field of modern cancer research and biotechnology.

Berlin Partner and the cluster HealthCapital Berlin-Brandenburg were able to support the company in finding partners and submitting an application for a project of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research. Within the framework of this project, alternative methods to animal experiments are to be strengthened and secured together with the Fraunhofer Institute for Cell Therapy and Immunology, Department of Bioanalytics and Processes (IZI-BB). With its tumour clones, ASC Oncology dispenses with animal experiments and can test the effects of cancer drugs on the 3D cell cultures.

In previous projects, an organ-on-chip system was developed and optimised at Fraunhofer-IZI-BB. This simultaneously enables the long-term culture of cells and real-time measurement of oxygen consumption in the immediate vicinity of the cells as an indicator of cell vitality. The system offers an optimum basis for the test procedure that has now been developed for individualised cancer treatment.


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