Neuroblastoma is a cancer of the nervous system that primarily affects children aged 5 and younger. Although neuroblastoma accounts for only 5% of childhood cancers, it is responsible for approximately 15% of childhood cancer deaths. For children with high risk neuroblastoma – children in which the cancer has spread significantly – the outlook is extremely poor. Approximately 1 in 5 of these children will not respond to treatment, and of those that do, 50% will develop drug resistance leading, in many cases, to death.
Dr Olga Piskareva, an NCRC supported scientist and Honorary Lecturer at RCSI, has recently published a study describing a new way to grow cancer cells in the lab. Traditionally, cancer cells have been grown as a flat layer of cells in a dish. However, Dr Piskareva has developed a way to grow cells in 3 dimensions, mirroring how cancer cells develop in the human body.
This new strategy to grow cancer cells in 3D has the potential to bridge the gap between traditional cell culture (the process of growing cells in the lab) and pre-clinical models. Importantly, this 3D model should help to understand cancer cell behaviour better and to accelerate the discovery and development of new drugs for neuroblastoma and other cancers. This, in turn, will make the outlook for little patients better and improve their quality of life.