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Shared Resource Facility Overview

The Patient-Derived Xenograft Core helps develop novel animal models that mimic the conditions of cancer in the human body. Compared to cell lines, these models offer researchers a much more accurate and complete representation of a patient’s cancer. 

In PDX, tumor tissue is taken from the patient and implanted in immunodeficient mice. Because the tissue is transplanted directly, unique characteristics of the patient’s tumors are preserved. These include features key to replicating conditions in the human body, like tumor microenvironment, cell-to-cell interactions and genetic mutations. Preserving these features in living specimens allows researchers to more accurately test the efficacy of cancer therapies.

The Benefit of Patient-Derived Xenograft

PDX is valuable because it allows us to test actual human cancer cells more accurately, more safely and more often. We can expand primary tumor tissue samples for testing by growing them in live specimens instead of test tubes. 

The alternative, cancer cell lines, often alter cancer cells dramatically. These cells adapt to survive in culture dishes over years rather than in the body. Thus, cell line xenografts — while great for testing certain signalling pathways — fail us in preserving and replicating patient-specific characteristics. It’s these unique characteristics that allow us to develop highly effective and innovative cancer treatments.

Though PDX is a powerful tool for cancer research, it’s certainly not a silver bullet. PDX should be viewed as a tool to be integrated with data from other research, such as non-PDX animal models. PDX can help guide research toward viable treatments that may work with real people in real clinical trials.

Goals and Community Impact

The goal of the PDX Core is to support cancer researchers with their preclinical studies. PDX is a tool that has the capability to impact research and development of treatments for any and all cancers. Because of this broad relevance to cancer treatment research, we have an enormous opportunity to improve patient lives. The PDX Core commits fully to this opportunity through its development and refinement of novel animal models.

Another goal of the PDX Core is to educate researchers on how to perform patient-derived xenografts. Though the PDX Core can carry out studies for researchers, we also support those interested in learning PDX techniques. We offer training to staff, students and postdocs so that they may utilize PDX both here at Loma Linda University Health and at other labs. Learning these techniques and putting them into practice can present both valuable discoveries and career growth opportunities to any researcher.

Facility Integration and Partnerships

Health Disparities

Researchers at Loma Linda University Health are uniquely positioned to combat health disparities in our Hispanic community. The people we serve are suffering disproportionately and we have the tools to change that. Much has already been accomplished in this fight but there’s still much to do.

The Patient-Derived Xenograft Core is particularly interested in partnering with cancer research programs to investigate cancer health disparities. Loma Linda University Health has a large Hispanic patient base and several disparities have already been identified in that population. These include:

PDX animal models may allow researchers of these cancers to compare responses to therapies between different populations of people. In this way, we can work towards specific cancer therapies for certain populations or even therapies that work for everyone. 

Champions Oncology

The PDX Core works in partnership with Champions Oncology to further cancer research efforts. Their tumor bank provides access to various types of tumors and data about existing PDX animal models for those tumors. Champions Oncology facilities also allow us greater capacity to carry out certain xenograft studies.