Foundation research

CBS2 visits the Lustgarten Foundation’s high-tech research lab as the quest for personalized pancreatic cancer medicine continues

COLD SPRING HARBOUR, NY — The Lustgarten Foundation directs 100% of donations to pancreatic cancer research. Part of the money helps fund a high-tech lab, where scientists work on personalized medicine.

The jiggly dome seen on a screen was an enlarged 3D matrix that mimics the human body. Growing inside was an organoid.

“It’s a large individual giant organoid,” said Dr. Amber Habowski. from Tuveson Lab in Cold Spring Harbor, CBS2’s Vanessa Murdock showed.

READ MORE: Promising new method may offer hope to pancreatic cancer patients

Habowski explained that an organoid is a model of living tissue that is cultured in the laboratory. Technicians receive samples from biopsies or surgeries from pancreatic cancer patients.

“We isolate and try to grow malignant cells from their cancer,” Habowski said.

Incubators provide the ideal conditions for growth. After a few weeks, a trained eye identifies the ideal samples for testing on drug tests.

“The final version is a plate that has all these different concentrations of different drugs,” Habowski said.

READ MORE: Join us on April 10 for the Lustgarten Pancreatic Cancer Research Walk

Around 100 different tests are run simultaneously on an organoid line. After five days of exposure, the plates are read.

“You see a lot of red. That means the cells are alive,” Habowski said. “These experimental drugs don’t work.”

Cancer still wins, but another plaque reveals more promising results – one step closer to personalized medicine.

“Is the turnaround time fast enough that the human tissue sample you grow and test can then be used to treat the same patient the tissue sample is from?” Murdock asked.

“Our average turnaround time from when we get tissue to when we have drug screen results is about three to eight weeks. So in some cases that’s not fast enough to a front-line treatment. We would really like a- to a two-week turnaround,” Habowski said.

READ MORE: FDA approves use of drug Lynparza for pancreatic cancer

Dr. Andy Rakeman, vice president of research at Lustgarten, said the facility represents the vision and progress the Foundation makes possible.

“We have just passed an important milestone where we achieved a 10% average five-year survival for patients diagnosed with pancreatic cancer,” Rakeman said.

He said these rates are still too low and research needs to continue and is continuing. The organoids are cryogenically stored so that drug-resistant cancer cells can be tested over and over again until the right treatment is found.

CBS2 is a proud media sponsor of the Lustgarten Foundation. On Sunday, the New York City Walk for Pancreatic Research takes place at Pier 84. There’s still time to register. For more information, please Click here and here.