German scientists have developed a miniature lung designed to personlize drug treatments for lung cancer patients. The researchers say the device will give doctors a way to more accurately pinpoint the most effective treatment options by testing different drugs on their patients own cancer cells. Matthew Stock reports.
STORY: This tiny lung, no bigger than a sugar cube, was developed by scientists to test medications that could be used in the fight against lung cancer. Researchers from Germany's Fraunhofer Institute took malignant tumour cells derived from a cancer patient and grew them on a scaffold of connective tissue to form the miniature lung. The device is then attached to a bioreactor which circulates nutrients through the systems blood vessels and simulates breathing. Professor Heike Walles is leading the project. She says the tiny lung represents the future of diagnostic medicine, giving doctors a new option to personalise drug protocols based on an individual patients illness. She says this new technique could eventually let doctors grow several identical tumours taken from one patient. (SOUNDBITE) (German) HEIKE WALLES, HEAD OF THE REGENERATIVE TECHNOLOGIES FOR ONCOLOGY GROUP AT WUERZBURG'S FRAUNHOFER INSTITUTE, SAYING: "The big advantage of this is that we can take a patient's tumour and grow five to ten of these little tumours and then try out different potential therapies outside the human body. After doing so, we'll be able to make really accurate prognoses of which treatment is most suitable for the patient and which treatments will fail or will generate resistance in this patient." Drug companies have until now had to largely rely on animal testing for cancer medication. But about three-quarters of animal trails fail when transferred to human patients. By building biologically accurate human lungs in miniature, scientists hope to replace animal testing with a viable alternative for evaluating new drugs to a much higher degree of accuracy.