TEDMED speakers Agus and Atala collaborate to study how cancer tumors grow

Using three-­‐dimensional organ creation, three-time TEDMED speaker David Agus of the Keck Medicine of University of Southern California (USC) will lead a team that aims to discover clues to metastatic cancer growth by developing a first-ever integrated bioengineered/computational model of metastatic colon cancer.

Agus is the principal investigator of a $2.3 million, four-­year “Provocative Questions” grant awarded recently by the National Cancer Institute (NCI), a division of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The project title is “An Integrative Computational and Bioengineered Tissue Model of Metastasis.”  Agus is a pioneer in computational cancer modelling, particularly in the area of proteomics.

Co-authoring the study is TEDMED 2010 speaker Anthony Atala, MD, professor and director of the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine (WFIRM) and chair of the department of urology at Wake Forest University. His team engineered the first lab-grown organ to be implanted into a human — a bladder — and is developing experimental fabrication technology that can “print” human tissue on demand.

The first phase of the project will be to calibrate a model with data from bioengineered liver tissue. Phase two will subject the growing tumors to physical changes likely to affect them in the human body, including alterations to oxygenation and drug treatment. In the third phase, the team will compare simulations of tumor growth in actual patients with outcome data from these patients.

USC co-­authors include Heinz-­Josef Lenz, M.D., professor of medicine and preventive medicine and associate director for clinical research and co-­‐leader of the Gastrointestinal Cancers program at the Keck School, as well as Paul Macklin, Ph.D., assistant professor of research, and Dan Ruderman, Ph.D., assistant professor of research medicine, at the Center for Applied Molecular Medicine. Also co-authoring from WFIRM is Shay Soker, Ph.D., professor.

Below, David Agus speaks at TEDMED 2010 on “A new strategy in the war against cancer.”

The NCI Provocative Questions project was launched in 2012 and is based on 20 important questions from the research community, intended to stimulate researchers to seek out especially effective and imaginative ways to study cancer. According to the NCI, the questions are categorized into five themes: Cancer prevention and risk; mechanisms of tumor development or recurrence; tumor detection, diagnosis and prognosis; cancer therapy and outcomes; clinical effectiveness.

Anthony Atala talks at TEDMED 2010 about growing organs in the lab.