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Advance Reported in Lab Growth of Human Cancers

January 24, 1986|DAVID SMOLLAR | Times Staff Writer

An improved method of growing human cancer cells in the laboratory could permit testing of new drugs in culture, reducing the need to experiment with animals and patients, a UC San Diego Cancer Center researcher has announced.

The method could also minimize side effects from new treatments.

Robert M. Hoffman's method of growing tumor cells has attained a 75% success rate among all tissue obtained from 17 types of human cancer, including lung, breast and colon malignancies, it is reported in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a journal for researchers.

Previous attempts to grow tumors in culture have not been as successful, primarily because of problems with the type of gel to which the tissue is attached in the laboratory to promote growth. Hoffman is using a gel that closely resembles the surface to which cancer cells attach inside a human body.

The UCSD professor is now testing various cancer drugs on some of the lab-grown tumors to see how they respond, although he concedes that such tumors can only approximate the growth of a human-body cancer because the effects of the circulatory and immune systems are missing.

Nevertheless, the laboratory work can allow physicians to measure the sensitivity of specific cancers to various drug treatments. Hoffman said that doctors conceivably could design an individualized dosage for a patient based on laboratory testing of that patient's tumor for the most effective drug.

Dr. Mark Green, the new director of the UCSD Cancer Center, said that Hoffman's work could bring about a better, more precise way of evaluating chemotherapy's effects on tumors.

Hoffman's work must be duplicated in other laboratories before it can be considered a breakthrough in treating human tumors.

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