An article on NPR this morning discusses how the use of a bed of radiated mouse cells helped human cancer cells thrive in the lab. Dr. Richard Schlegel was having trouble running in vitro (test tube) tests on human cancer cells, as the cells would quickly degrade and die in the lab. Placing the human cells on a bed of irradiated mouse cells and with a compound that regulates cell growth has allowed these human cells to thrive.
With thriving cancer cells in the lab, Dr. Schlegel and his team at Georgetown University Medical Center have then be able to much more easily test other drugs that can slow down or stop the growth of cancer cells. A surprise finding already is that a drug used to treat malaria (a form of artemisinin) appears to be an effective in killing cervical cancer cells.
This finding, in turn, has allowed the commencement of a human drug trial targeting women with precancerous cervical cells.
This technique that allows for thriving test cells in the lab, whilst still very early in its development, could dramatically speed up the process of taking promising drugs out of the lab and allowing for their effective use in both human and animals.