Fighting Blood Cancer More Efficiently – PHRT


Fighting Blood Cancer More Efficiently

On April 20, 2023, researchers from ETH Zurich and the University Hospitals of Zurich had a publication released in Nature Cancer. Their work on multiple myeloma, a blood cancer, is enabled by Prof. Dr. Berend Snijder’s Pharmacoscopy technology, which was notably developed with funding by PHRT.

Multiple myeloma is a malignant disease of the plasma cells, the cells responsible for antibody production, whose uncontrolled proliferation occurs in the bone marrow. Different drugs can be used to improve the prognostic of the disease which remains poor. Professor Snijder’s lab at the ETHZ has developed pharmacoscopy, a cell imaging technique which, with the help of neural networks, can determine the best drug treatment for a given patient tumor.

Bone-​marrow cells of a multiple myeloma patient. Red cells are healthy monocytes, green and yellow are plasma cells. (Image: Berend Snijder Lab / ETH Zurich)

Prof Snijder, partly financed by PHRT, worked in close partnership with the University Hospital and the Children Hospital of Zurich to get access to patient samples and with the Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics.

Samples from seventy patients with multiple myeloma were analysed by different methods based notably on microscopy imaging (pharmacoscopy), extensive protein and genetic analyses. The results of these analyses show that the drug sensitivity of the tumor cells is associated with the local bone environment of the tumor and the induced inflammation. Moreover,  the drug sensitivity analysis made in vitro predicts well the clinical responses of multiple myeloma patients to their drug treatment.

In addition to support the individualized therapeutic choice for multiple myeloma patients, these findings may allow to identify potential new targets for future treatments of multiple myeloma.

Kropivsek, K., Kachel, P., Goetze, S. et al. Ex vivo drug response heterogeneity reveals personalized therapeutic strategies for patients with multiple myeloma. Nat Cancer 4, 734–753 (2023).

Institute of Molecular Systems Biology, D-BIOL, ETHZ
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Lukas Blumer

Communications Specialist