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Hope in a mouse

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Science  03 Oct 2014:
Vol. 346, Issue 6205, pp. 28-29
DOI: 10.1126/science.346.6205.28

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Summary

Champions Oncology is a biotech company pushing the limits of biology: It's selling personalized mouse models to cancer patients. The company creates "avatar" mice with samples of a patient's tumor and some normal tissue, building a cohort of animals in which to test drugs. The hope is that any therapies that help the mice will also help that particular patient. Champions is drawing praise and criticism, and sparking debate about whether avatar mice are ready for patient use and whether it's appropriate for families to pay thousands of dollars for a strategy that is still experimental. At the same time, others say the mice have so far shown they can predict responses to drugs in people, and that patients with few options should have the right to try them. There are many hurdles along the way. They include coaxing tumor to engraft in a mouse, and the several months it usually takes to build the animals and test the drugs. Many patients have little time to wait.