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Innsbruck testing system for myeloma drugs

Researchers in Innsbruck have developed an urgently needed drug screening system for new medicines against multiple myeloma, which is cancer of bone marrow. The researchers succeeded in growing miniature human myelomas in shell-less chicken eggs in order to screen new substances to fight against the disease.

Scientists involved in the EU project "OPTATIO" recently demonstrated that substances from marine organisms can be effective in their testing system against multiple myeloma. They showed their new process per video in the recently published issue of "Journal of Visualized Experiments".

Researchers from the Department of Hematology and Oncology at the Medical University of Innsbruck equipped human myeloma cells with the shiny green jellyfish protein GFP. This is easy to recognize and observe under a fluorescence microscope. These marked cells were then cultivated together with human mensenchymal cells from the bone marrow and with collagen in the shape of three-dimensional cell spheres in order to simulate the natural microenvironment of the tumor in the bone marrow that plays a crucial role in multiple myeloma. After removing the egg shells, the researchers transferred their little cell spheres to the outer membrane. The so-called choriallantoid membrane provided a base for growing the miniature human tumors in a petri dish.

The researchers added various test substances and observed whether they were able to specifically kill myeloma cells in their three-dimensional, spherical environment. This is not a matter of course, given that the surrounding mensenchymal cells protect the tumor in the test system just as they do in patients. This “protective shield” must be overcome by cancer drugs in order to be effective. In addition, the researchers examined over a period of several days whether the tumor attracted new blood vessels to supply it, or whether the test substances could prevent this. Finally, the scientists can learn about the drug’s toxicity for the entire organism.

Wolfgang Willenbacher, scientific coordinator of "OPTATIO", was satisfied with the conclusion of the three-year EU research project. “In an international cooperation, we succeeded in laying new foundations, especially in setting up registries and also with new drug screening systems developed within the context of OPTATIO“. 

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