Research on cells grown in culture flasks has taught us a great deal about how molecules detect and repair DNA damage. One of the methods used involves filming living cells and tracking the DNA-repair proteins, which are labelled with miniscule lights. The knowledge obtained in this way enables physicians to select individual cancer patients for customized therapy. Normally, however, tumour cells exist within a three-dimensional structure that is much more complex than the flat bottom of a culture flask. For this reason, researchers are culturing thin slices of living tumours on so-called ‘chips’, which are better able to simulate the tumour’s environment in the body. DNA damage response proteins in tumours will be labelled with miniscule lights to find out how they work in cells that are still part of a tumour.
The knowledge obtained in this way will make it possible to precisely select the appropriate therapy for each individual patient, before their treatment commences.