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Model of Patient-Specific Immune-Enhanced Organoids for Immunotherapy Screening: Feasibility Study.

Konstantinos I. Votanopoulos MD, PhDSteven Forsythe MSc, Hemamylammal Sivakumar MScAndrea Mazzocchi BScJulio Aleman BScLance Miller PhDEdward Levine MDPierre Triozzi MD & Aleksander Skardal PhD


We hypothesized that engineering a combined lymph node/melanoma organoid from the same patient would allow tumor, stroma, and immune system to remain viable for personalized immunotherapy screening.


Surgically obtained matched melanoma and lymph node biospecimens from the same patient were transferred to the laboratory and washed with saline, antibiotic, and red blood cell lysis buffer. Biospecimens were dissociated, incorporated into an extracellular matrix (ECM)-based hydrogel system, and biofabricated into three dimensional (3D) mixed melanoma/node organoids. Cells were not sorted, so as to preserve tumor heterogeneity, including stroma and immune cell components, resulting in immune-enhanced patient tumor organoids (iPTOs). Organoid sets were screened in parallel with nivolumab, pembrolizumab, ipilimumab, and dabrafenib/trametinib for 72 h. LIVE/DEAD staining and quantitative metabolism assays recorded relative drug efficacy. Histology and immunohistochemistry were used to compare tumor melanoma cells with organoid melanoma cells. Lastly, node-enhanced iPTOs were employed to activate patient-matched peripheral blood T cells for killing of tumor cells in naïve PTOs.


Ten biospecimen sets obtained from eight stage III and IV melanoma patients were reconstructed as symbiotic immune/tumor organoids between September 2017 and June 2018. Successful establishment of viable organoid sets was 90% (9/10), although organoid yield varied with biospecimen size. Average time from organoid development to initiation of immunotherapy testing was 7 days. In three patients for whom a node was not available, it was substituted with peripheral blood mononuclear cells. iPTO response to immunotherapy was similar to specimen clinical response in 85% (6/7) patients. In an additional pilot study, peripheral T cells were circulated through iPTOs, and subsequently transferred to naïve PTOs from the same patient, resulting in tumor killing, suggesting a possible role of iPTOs in generating adaptive immunity.


Development of 3D mixed immune-enhanced tumor/node organoids is a feasible platform, allowing individual patient immune system and tumor cells to remain viable for studying of personalized immunotherapy response.


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