Prospective experimental treatment of colorectal cancer patients based on organoid drug responses

S. N. Ooft, F. Weeber, L. Schipper, K. K. Dijkstra, C. M. McLean, S. Kaing, J. van de Haar, W. Prevoo, E. van Werkhoven, P. Snaebjornsson, L. R. Hoes, M. Chalabi, D. van der Velden, M. van Leerdam, H. Boot, C. Grootscholten, A. D.R. Huitema, H. J. Bloemendal, E. Cuppen, E. E. Voest

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BACKGROUND: Organoid technology has recently emerged as a powerful tool to assess drug sensitivity of individual patient tumors in vitro. Organoids may therefore represent a new avenue for precision medicine, as this circumvents many of the complexities associated with DNA- or transcriptional-profiling. MATERIALS AND METHODS: The SENSOR trial was a single-arm, single-center, prospective intervention trial to evaluate the feasibility of patient-derived organoids to allocate patients for treatment with off-label or investigational agents. The primary endpoint was an objective response rate of ≥20%. Patients underwent a biopsy for culture before commencing their last round standard of care. Organoids were exposed to a panel of eight drugs and patients were treated after progression on standard-of-care treatment and when a clear signal of antitumor activity was identified in vitro. RESULTS: Sixty-one patients were included and we generated 31 organoids of 54 eligible patients. Twenty-five cultures were subjected to drug screening and 19 organoids exhibited substantial responses to one or more drugs. Three patients underwent treatment with vistusertib and three with capivasertib. Despite drug sensitivity of organoids, patients did not demonstrate objective clinical responses to the recommended treatment. CONCLUSIONS: Organoid technology had limited value as a tool for precision medicine in this patient population because a large fraction of patients could not undergo treatment or because the recommended treatment did not elicit an objective response. We identified several essential parameters, such as the culture success rate, clinical deterioration of patients during standard of care, and rational design of drug panels that need to be accounted for in organoid-guided clinical studies.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100103
Pages (from-to)100103
Number of pages1
JournalESMO open
Issue number3
Early online date19 Apr 2021
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2021


  • clinical trial
  • colorectal cancer
  • drug screening
  • experimental treatment
  • precision medicine
  • tumor organoids


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