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Cancer-on-a-chip developed to assess chemotherapy-associated toxicity

Researchers have developed a dual-organ system on a chip to measure cardiac toxicity arising from breast cancer chemotherapy.

Breast cancer and chemotherapy

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women from both the developed and less developed world. Estimates indicate that breast cancer takes the lives of 12,000 women and 80 men each year in the UK alone. As a result, there has been a lot of effort around the world in developing treatments to treat this disease. Among these treatments, chemotherapy has proven to be one of the most effective methods. Nonetheless, these therapies can have serious adverse side effects. The most serious is toxicity to the heart – cardiotoxicity. Chemotherapeutic breast cancer drugs can cause both tissue damage to the heart and also affect the heart’s ability to pump.

Most approaches to monitor chemotherapy-induced cardiotoxicity (CIC) fail to notice the early signs. Moreover, patients with breast cancer and pre-existing cardiac dysfunctions can also impact the incidence levels of CIC.

Heart-Breast Cancer-on-a-Chip

In this study, published in Small, researchers developed a model for investigating CIC and responses of breast cancer and heart tissues to chemotherapy drugs. Specifically, they used induced pluripotent stem cell-derived cardiac tissues – both healthy and damaged. These cells interacted with breast cancer tissues on a dual-organ platform.

The team built the model so that electrochemical immuno‐aptasensors could monitor multiple biomarkers secreted by cells. They specifically chose to measure two cardiac biomarkers produced by healthy heart cells and one biomarker that is produced by actively growing breast cancer cells. They included tests of both healthy and artificially induced damaged heart tissues.

They found that compared to single-chip systems, actively growing breast cancer tissues in communication with heart tissues decreased the levels of healthy heart biomarkers. The dual-chip system also revealed that breast cancer cells’ biomarker secretion was not only impacted by drug treatment, but also their interactions with cardiac tissues with different levels of damage. These results demonstrate that the interplay between the heart and breast cancer tissues had an impact on indicators of cell function and disease progression.

Most importantly, they found that delivery of breast cancer drugs resulted in decreased cellular growth and secretion of healthy heart biomarkers. These efforts lay the foundation for future applications in disease modelling in the hope for personalised medicine.

Dr. Junmin Lee, first author and part of the Terasaki Institute’s research team, stated:

“This work establishes an important model for monitoring cardiac toxicity from breast cancer chemotherapy.

We successfully created cardiac and breast cancer tissues that closely mimic bodily tissues, and we developed an improved sensing device and drug delivery system; these are milestones in organs-on-a-chip technology.”

Image credit: By sshepard –

More on these topics

Cancer / Chemotherapy / Toxicity

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