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Launched in July 2016 an international consortium of researchers is looking to revolutionise in vitro Cancer models and drug development. Titled the Human Cancer Model Initiative (HCMI) and spearheaded by the National Cancer Institute (NCI), Cancer Research UK, Welcome Trust Sanger Institute and the Hubrecht Organoid Technology the ambitious collaboration looks to develop 1,000 next-generation cell-line models.

Experimental studies using cancer cell lines are often the first step in the development of cancer treatments as well as one of the best tools we have for understanding basic cancer biology. With researchers using tumour cell lines to discover new genes involved in cancer, test biological function and investigate novel treatments and methods in a first step to the clinic. However most widely used cancer cell lines available today fail to capture the complexity of human tissue and often lack critical information on patient history as well as genomic infomation. Equally importantly many common and rare cancer subtypes are still inadequately represented or even absent among current available lines.

This lack of coverage of tumour types and failure to accurately simulate in vivo cancer biology can lead to expensive and time consuming failures slowing progression towards a cure. Additionally, it can lead researchers down wrong avenues and cause missed opportunities due to behaviour that would not be observed in a primary tumour. Importantly the more clinical and genomic information available the more opportunities researchers have for discovering real leads and the more closely cell lines reflect real tumours behaviour the more likely treatments and findings in the lab will transition into the clinic.  

By combining recent advances in tissue engineering with novel cell culture techniques the initiative looks to develop cutting edge organoid models and conditional reprogramming approaches that more closely capture the complexity and architecture of the real tumour microenvironment. The ambitious project looks to massively expand the information at the finger-tips of the benchtop researcher by combining extensive information from anonymized patient histories, including treatment responsiveness, with a full genomic profile of each line. The new models will also be developed systematically using tumor tissue from patients representing all cancer types including rare and pediatric cancers that have historically been poorly represented. 

To make these new resources available to the international community HCMI has partnered ATCC the provider of the world largest and most diverse collection of cell lines to develop technology for the storage, production and distribution of this unique resource.