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'Time machine' offers new pancreatic cancer drug testing approach

Many patients with pancreatic cancer have only about a 10% chance of survival within five years of their diagnosis because they tend to become resistant to chemotherapy, past studies have indicated.

A "time machine" that Purdue University engineers designed to observe pancreatic cancer behavior over time suggests a new drug testing approach that could help scientists better catch resistance.

The researchers found that testing potential drugs on multiple tumor cell subtypes—rather than on just one cell subtype—can reveal drug resistance that may occur due to how different cancer subtypes interact with each other.

"The drug discovery and screening process has been using one cancer cell subtype and studying how it interacts with neighboring non-cancer cells, but this may overestimate the efficacy of the drug," said Bumsoo Han, a Purdue professor of mechanical engineering and program leader of the Purdue Center for Cancer Research. Han has a courtesy appointment in biomedical engineering.

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