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Partnership with Northeastern University to advance new photomedicine therapies for key cancers

Jan 4, 2021 12:45:21 PM / by David Deems

We are pleased to announce a grant collaboration with Dr. Bryan Spring, of Northeastern University. Recently, we sat down with Dr. Spring to understand the value sees with Cellaria cell models when compared to conventional cell lines for pancreatic and ovarian cancer. The ultimate goal of his lab is to reduce cancer recurrence and mortality by establishing new approaches for personalized medicine that address tumor heterogeneity, drug-resistance and molecular mechanisms of treatment.

My research focuses on mopping up small deposits of cancer cells that are left behind after surgery and chemotherapy that standard therapies miss. We use photomedicine to induce mechanisms of cell death that are unique and that are agnostic to classical drug resistance. Like many of us we've been using standard cancer cell lines for many years in xenograft models. But now in the new era of precision medicine that's emerging, we all need to upgrade our models to be traceable to particular patient populations and molecular subtypes of the disease. 

At the Wellman Center for photomedicine we developed a new therapy to mop up microscopic deposits of disease using photomedicine. [The technique] is a targeted therapy that uses an antibody conjugated to a photosensitizing molecule. We had done this based on a single biomarker for ovarian cancer and a xenograft model. We brought it around to various clinicians at Mass General and they were excited about it as well, but one of the critical comments that came back is that ‘this is a great proof of concept but you're based on one single biomarker here, and we now know that the disease is very heterogeneous and actually there's a whole continuum of phenotypes and different cell-surface marker expression profiles’.  So when we do the single cell omics nowadays for ovarian cancer and pancreatic cancer you actually get clusters, but there's a whole continuum of different molecular expression profiles and phenotypes.

So to tackle that challenge, at Northeastern University we've launched a new research project in my lab where we're trying to target multiple cell types that are responsible for drug resistance (basically the most drug-resistant cell types). To do this we really need models that are reproducible, that capture the patient heterogeneity and that [need] led us to Cellaria”.

Listen to the full interview with Bryan and hear him discuss why he is so excited about the Cellaria product line, including the benefits of heterogeneity, the -omics data supplied that has led to a collaboration where they plan to cycle these cells to chemotherapy and track changes in biomarkers. Bryan explains how having the -omics available can help to decipher what biomarkers are actually the key biomarkers at the cell surface that reflect changes as cells become more chemo-resistant phenotypes. 

Bryan concludes: “What really stands out with Cellaria is the desire to really look at a breadth of patients, not only the heterogeneous cells that were in a specific patient model, but the desire to actually test some of your assumptions in a broader set of patients. I think that's where the value of our techniques and the ability to achieve success with  many patients in a stable model system really is something that in the end will provide you with detailed knowledge about how the system works, what are the key biomarkers that are necessary to monitor, so that you can hopefully identify the profile that is likely to lead to a higher degree of success as you move forward”.

Watch the full video here.

Topics: Pancreatic, Bryan Spring

David Deems

Written by David Deems