Organoids as a tool for fundamental and translational oncology research : Can organoids guide clinical decision making?

Else Driehuis

Research output: PhD ThesisPhD thesis


Organoids are mini-organs that can be grown in a petri-dish. These structures can be grown from different sources, including patient material. During my PhD, I have established the ‘recipe’ to grow organoids from the lining of the oral cavity, or tumors derived thereof. In the laboratory, these mini-tumors were subsequently exposed to a range of therapies currently used to treat cancer patients (like radiation and chemotherapy). In a small cohort of patients, we could compare the effect of radiation in patients with the response of organoids grown from their tumors. We saw that this organoid response can predict the response of the patient. We are now testing if this predictive potential holds true in a larger group of patients. If it does, this suggests that organoid-tests could help doctors make better informed decisions on which therapy to give to which patients (a concept also known as ‘personalized medicine’). We have also established pancreatic tumor organoids. Here, we saw that for organoids derived from each individual patient, a different drug worked best to kill the tumor cells. This is an interesting finding when you think about the fact that most of these patients will currently receive identical treatment. I have tried to use organoids in more ways to aid or complement the clinic. For example, we used them to study oral mucositis, a common side-effect of chemotherapy given to pediatric leukemia patients. Taken together, I have investigated if and how organoids can be used to develop better treatments for cancer patients.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor (dr.)
Awarding Institution
  • Utrecht University
  • Clevers, Hans, Promotor
  • Diest, P.J. van, Co-promotor, External person
  • Willems, Stefan M, Co-promotor, External person
Award date01 Oct 2019
Print ISBNs978-94-6182-967-2
Publication statusPublished - 01 Oct 2019


  • organoids
  • personalized medicine
  • head and neck cancer
  • pancreatic cancer
  • oncology
  • biobank


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