A microfluidic cell culture platform for personalizing pancreatic cancer therapies

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Molecular & Cellular Analysis Technologies
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Not Applicable
Pancreatic cancer is expected to become the second leading cause of cancer death in the United States by 2030. Because this cancer is asymptomatic at the early stage, patients are diagnosed at the advanced stage and have a 5 year survival rate of less than 5%. The benefit from `one-size-fits-all' approach to treating pan- creatic cancer has reached a plateau, partly due to high incidence of chemotherapy resistance and heterogeneity associated with this disease. Novel tools are needed to address these problems and to improve the survival of patients afflicted by this deadly cancer. About 40% of newly diagnosed patients have a metastatic form of pancreatic cancer. Typical survival time for such patients is between 8 and 10 months; therefore, it is extremely important to initiate the most efficacious therapy as soon as possible. All patients with metastatic pancreatic cancer receive a chemotherapy regimen. A patient is enrolled into either a FOLFIRINOX or gemcitabine/nab-paclitaxel regimen. At the present time, the decision of which chemotherapy regimen to use is driven by general consensus guidelines and not by the tu- mor characteristics of an individual patient. Treatment response is typically evaluated by radiographical imaging performed every two months, and only 30% of patients respond to the chosen chemotherapy regimen. Precious time is lost as a result. Such trial-and-error approach to therapy selection for treating an aggressive cancer is simply unacceptable. Our team proposes to accelerate and personalize therapy selection process by developing a microfluidic platform for cultivating cancer cells and evaluating drug responsiveness for patients with metastatic pancreatic cancer. Our long term goal is to establish clinical utility of microfluidic cancer cul- tures for personalizing chemotherapy. Upon successful completion of the current project, the microfluidic culture platform will be incorporated into future clinical validation studies.