Melissa Skala, an associate professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering, is a co-investigator on a University of Wisconsin Carbone Cancer Center and McArdle Laboratory for Cancer Research study backed by a five-year, $3 million grant from the National Cancer Institute.
The study, which seeks to advance personalized treatments for colorectal cancer, will use optical imaging techniques that Skala has developed.
Researchers will grow colon cancer cells from patient-derived tissue to help predict how an individual patient’s cancer will respond to various treatments. By growing tissues from individual patients in three-dimensional, or organotypic, cultures, the researchers will be able to better simulate a given patient’s cancer in a laboratory setting.
Skala’s imaging techniques will then allow the team to monitor the evolution of the organotypic cultures over time. Through this technology, the researchers will investigate how the genetics of individual tumors affect their response to treatments.
“Our long-term goal is to be able to tell a patient who comes into a clinic, ‘We have taken your tissue, tested it in the lab, and based on those results we can tell you this is what your treatment strategy should be,’” says Carbone Cancer Center physician-researcher Dusty Deming, the study’s principal investigator.