TGen, Ashion and HonorHealth: Organoids can help pinpoint the right therapies for cancer patients

June 22, 2020

PHOENIX, Ariz. -- June 22, 2020 -- Precision medicine, using the power of the human genome to diagnose and treat patients, is about to get even more precise.

A new program called PATRIOT, developed by the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen), an affiliate of City of Hope, is using organoids -- laboratory cultures derived from samples of patient tumors -- to provide a whole new level of accuracy in prescribing anti-cancer treatments.

PATRIOT builds on other precision medicine programs devised by Ashion Analytics, a TGen clinical laboratory, which uses its GEM ExTra® proprietary test to match each patient's unique cancer to the best available cancer treatments.

PATRIOT, which stands for PAThway based RNA and DNA Integration with tumor Organoid Testing for clinical therapeutics, will be showcased in a study presentation June 22-24 at the second 2020 virtual annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR).

"Cancer tumors are complicated," said Dr. Sunil Sharma, Deputy Director of TGen Clinical Sciences and Chief of Translational Oncology and Drug Development at the HonorHealth Research Institute. "PATRIOT is a very powerful platform that will make GEM ExTra even more powerful. This will expand the use of RNA analysis in a way that has never been used before."

In this system, organoids -- which can mimic the reactions of solid tumors in patients' bodies --are grown in a laboratory and then used to test different anti-cancer therapies.

"It's a way of conducting clinical trials on a laboratory plate," said Dr. Sharma, who also is a Professor and Director of TGen's Applied Cancer Research and Drug Discovery Division.

The study being presented at AACR shows how Dr. Sharma's TGen lab, using melanoma tumor samples provided by HonorHealth, used the new PATRIOT system to identify potential therapeutic targets by focusing on molecular pathways within tumor cells, a level of analysis that goes beyond searching for mutations in DNA, and even builds on top of the intricate analysis of RNA-expression provided by Ashion's GEM ExTra.

"These druggable targets were validated on the tumor organoids," said Dr. Sharma, who hails the system as a whole new way to provide therapeutic benefit to patients. "This allows for a holistic assessment of a patient's tumor for improving therapy recommendations and expanding personalized therapy options."

In addition, he said, PATRIOT analysis of organoids gives investigators the ability to test immunotherapy options in the laboratory.

Ashion's GEM ExTra platform already has expanded the therapeutic potential of genomic sequencing by using RNA sequencing to identify novel fusions and alternate transcripts, providing additional tumor profiling data in addition to that identified by DNA sequencing.

Unlike many other genomic sequencing tests, which use panels of dozens or even hundreds of known cancer-causing genomic variants, Ashion's GEM ExTra screens cancer patients for all of the nearly 3 billion nucleotides, or letters, in human DNA, which includes more than 19,000 genes.

The next step, Dr. Sharma said, is to test the predictions from PATRIOT and GEM ExTra analysis of patient organoids in the laboratory to see if they might work in a larger clinical trial.
This study was supported by funding from Flinn Foundation grant #2193.

About TGen, an affiliate of City of Hope

Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) is a Phoenix, Arizona-based non-profit organization dedicated to conducting groundbreaking research with life-changing results. TGen is affiliated with City of Hope, a world-renowned independent research and treatment center for cancer, diabetes and other life-threatening diseases: This precision medicine affiliation enables both institutes to complement each other in research and patient care, with City of Hope providing a significant clinical setting to advance scientific discoveries made by TGen. TGen is focused on helping patients with neurological disorders, cancer, diabetes and infectious diseases through cutting-edge translational research (the process of rapidly moving research toward patient benefit). TGen physicians and scientists work to unravel the genetic components of both common and complex rare diseases in adults and children. Working with collaborators in the scientific and medical communities worldwide, TGen makes a substantial contribution to help our patients through efficiency and effectiveness of the translational process. For more information, visit: Follow TGen on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter @TGen.

About Ashion Analytics

At Ashion, our goal is to accelerate the adoption of genomic analysis for clinical decision support to improve the treatment of patients with refractory, rare or aggressive disease. We are experts at Next-Generation Sequencing-based clinical laboratory services, deriving our pedigree from the pioneering precision medicine work at the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) in Phoenix. Ashion Analytics' mission is to develop and deliver the premier personalized medicine diagnostic, data analytic, and clinical coordination services, which assist healthcare providers in offering their patients individualized treatment options, and which improve outcomes.

About HonorHealth:

HonorHealth is a non-profit, local community healthcare system serving an area of 1.6 million people in the greater Phoenix area. The network encompasses five acute-care hospitals, an extensive medical group, outpatient surgery centers, a cancer care network, clinical research, medical education, a foundation and community services with approximately 12,300 employees, 3,700 affiliated physicians and 3,100 volunteers. HonorHealth was formed by a merger between Scottsdale Healthcare and John C. Lincoln Health Network. HonorHealth's mission is to improve the health and well-being of those we serve. Learn more at

About HonorHealth Research Institute

HonorHealth Research Institute is helping shape the future of medicine. We're finding cures and improving treatments in areas like gene therapy, early drug/device development, early detection and prevention of disease. Through our clinical trials and applied research, we've given hope and improved the lives of patients from all 50 states and 28 different countries around the globe. Our advanced technologies and cutting-edge treatment options are introducing tomorrow's cures, today. For more information on oncology clinical trials for cancer contact HonorHealth Research Institute Nurse Navigators (480) 323-1364 or email or learn more at Follow HonorHealth Research Institute on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter @HRInstitute_AZ.

Media Contact:

Steve Yozwiak
TGen Senior Science Writer

The Translational Genomics Research Institute

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