Developing animal-free methods to study thrombosis in cancer patients.

Cancer-associated thrombosis-on-a-chip

Cancer patients are at an increased risk of developing thrombosis, but the reasons for this are currently unknown. Although the mechanisms leading to thrombosis in cancer patients have been studied in animals such as mice, animals do not spontaneously develop thrombosis and are a poor model to study why cancer patients develop thrombosis. Therefore, Leiden University Medical Center and Mimetas, a leading company in producing alternatives to animal experimentation, have teamed up to develop an animal-free model that can be used to study the mechanisms that drive cancer-associated thrombosis. 

Cancer-associated thrombosis causes great discomfort to the cancer patient, causes the oncologist to stop cancer treatment, and is the second cause of death in cancer patients. Treatment of thrombosis in cancer patients raises the costs of health care with 50% and is thus very costly. Therefore, a better understanding of cancer-associated thrombosis, which processes cause cancer-associated thrombosis and how it could be prevented are of great importance. Development of a model that better mimics human disease is therefore warranted. 

To develop this model they will use existing organ-on-a-chip platforms developed by Mimetas. These organ-on-a-chip platforms will be adapted to include a tumor and tumor-derived blood vessels. Blood plasma containing blood clotting factors will be perfused through the blood vessels to study whether and how fast the presence of a tumor leads to blood clotting and thrombosis. Using this model they will then test which clotting factors and which tumor-expressed genes influence the speed of blood clotting. 

Using this model theyanticipate to discover which blood components and tumor-expressed genes drive cancer-associated thrombosis. These tumor-expressed genes and components will provide the opportunity to develop a computer-based tool to predict, based on these genes and components, which cancer patient has a high risk of thrombosis and should  be treated to prevent thrombosis.            

Cancer patients have a higher risk to develop thrombosis but the reasons for this are unknown. Animal models are not suited to study this. Therefore, in this project new models will be developed to study the mechanistic and genetic basis of thrombosis in cancer patients.
Technology Readiness Level (TRL)
2 - 3
Time period
18 months