New tumour model is ‘major step towards individualised cancer therapy’

Researchers from Kyoto University have developed a new tumour model that will allow them to more effectively analyse individual human cancers, according to a report published in the journal Nature.

In the ‘chicken egg tumour model’, cultured ovarian cancer cells are transplanted on top of the membrane that surrounds a 10-day-old chicken embryo. An ovarian tumour then forms on top of the membrane within three days of transplantation.

The team had similar results when they used ovarian tumour samples taken directly from patients, showing that their chicken egg model provides a convenient system for replicating human cancer. This conclusion is supported by their detailed characterisation of the tumour, demonstrating that it possesses all major cancer features.

Fuyuhiko Tamanoi, the study’s lead author, said: ‘We were surprised when the tumour was formed in three days. This is very rapid considering that it takes weeks to do the same with mice. We can start using this model to test for anti-cancer drugs tailored to each cancer patient’s needs. The process can be completed within one week.’

The chicken egg model has several advantages over existing models, such as mouse models, for testing anti-cancer therapies. The tumours form much more rapidly on the chicken embryonic membranes than in mice due to the rich nutrient environment and the incomplete immune system at this stage of embryonic development. Fertilised chicken eggs are also less expensive to use than immune-compromised mice making the model suitable for high throughput experiments, which allow the execution of large numbers of experiments to be conducted in parallel.