100 cancer organoid models developed by Sanger Institute scientists 

The organoids developed by the Sanger Institute lead the UK effort as part of the international Human Cancer Model Initiative (HCMI) and will soon be available for researchers, together with their associated genomic data

100 cancer organoid models developed by Sanger Institute scientists 


Organoids - The organoids developed by the Sanger Institute lead the UK effort as part of the international Human Cancer Model Initiative (HCMI) and will soon be available for researchers. Image Credit: Wellcome Sanger Institute, Genome Research Limited
Organoids - The organoids developed by the Sanger Institute lead the UK effort as part of the international Human Cancer Model Initiative (HCMI) and will soon be available for researchers, together with their associated genomic data. Image Credit: Wellcome Sanger Institute, Genome Research Limited

Researchers at the Wellcome Sanger Institute have developed 100 cancer organoids.The work was co-funded by Cancer Research UK and the Sanger Institute and leads the UK effort as part of the international Human Cancer Model Initiative (HCMI). The organoids will soon be available for researchers, together with associated data including whole genome sequences.

Organoids, where cells self-organise into 3D structures, are a powerful new tool for cancer researchers. The cells, derived from patients tumours and grown in the lab, mirror the cellular complexity and architecture of an individual tumour. Having 100 organoids from patients with three types of cancer begins to reflect the huge diversity of tumours.

The 100 organoids are derived from the tumours of patients with colorectal, oesophageal and pancreatic cancer. Available to researchers worldwide, they will enable studies into cancer development and biology, as well as drug discovery. Researchers will be able to order the organoids via the biorepository ATCC and data for the organoids will be available on the Cell Model Passports website.

Creating 100 organoids is an important milestone for Sanger Institute researchers who have been working closely with Cancer Research UK. The organoids contribute to the HCMI. The international initiative is a collaboration between the Sanger Institute, Cancer Research UK, U.S. National Cancer Institute, and the foundation Hubrecht Organoid Technology. More organoids representing more types of cancer will be created by the HCMI consortium.

“Cancer is so diverse, even within a type or sub-type. We need to reflect that when we are studying it in the lab. Organoids are a great model – enabling us to study how tumours develop and how they respond to treatments.

“Because each organoid represents a tumour of an individual patient, they also represent a step on the journey to personalised medicine. One day it may be possible for an organoid to be created and used as part of specialist cancer care – for example to see which treatments a tumour will respond to. We’re some way off that at the moment, but this project is building the foundations for it to be possible.”

Dr Mathew Garnett, head of the Translational Cancer Genomics group at the Sanger Institute

Working with clinicians, scientists and hospitals across the UK, the teams have established an efficient pipeline to derive and characterize these new models. Cancer Research UK have not only provided funding to support the work but have supported establishment of the Network with the clinical sites as well as agreements and governance for the project.

“A massive achievement of this project has been setting up the networks across the UK to get the tumour tissue. That involves establishing the ethics protocols, working with pathologists and surgeons to collect the samples, and couriers to rush them to the Sanger Institute. To make the organoids we have to get the tissue to the Sanger Institute within 36 hours of surgery - so it’s been a massive challenge. But we’ve built that capability and infrastructure. We are extremely grateful to our collaborators and the patients involved.”

Dr Hayley Francies, a senior staff scientist at the Sanger Institute and lead project scientist

The Sanger Institute would like to thank the patients who kindly donated their tissue for this project.

Notes to Editors
Selected Websites
The weird and wonderful world of organoidsSanger ScienceThe weird and wonderful world of organoids
Mini organs grown in the lab are boosting cancer research and drug discovery.

My career in genomics: cancer biologyVideoMy career in genomics: cancer biology
In this film Niki Patel talks about her research looking at the genetics of cancer. This is one of a series of films providing a unique insight into different careers in the field of genomics. 

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