Development of a personalized living chicken embryo avatar model to predict chemotherapeutic drug sensitivity/resistance


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Challenge: Classical medical Avatar models involve implanting patient tumor samples in immunodeficient mice for subsequent drug testing to tailor the optimal drug or combination of drugs to a given patient. This strategy proves to be an excellent approach for personalized medicine in various cancer indications such as melanoma, lung cancer, and breast cancer. Nevertheless, this model has important limitations, including the lack of growth and progression of many tumors in Avatar mice and the long timeframe required for engraftment/growth, which are problematic for patients with rapidly progressing disease. Moreover, the immunodeficient mice are onerous to purchase and maintain, limiting the number of drug regimens to be tested.

Solution: The team has developed a rapid and cost-effective pre-clinical model that is well suited for precision medicine – the live ex-ovo (shell-less) chicken embryo ChorioAllantoic Membrane (CAM) system. They have shown that tumor growth occurs very rapidly in ex-ovo CAMs, with measurable tumors obtained within few days, as opposed to several weeks/months in mice. In addition, the engrafting rate is much higher and tumor sizes are more uniform – two key assets for personalized drug testing. The goal of the project is to conduct a pilot study that combines targeted next-generation sequencing and the use of the CAM medical Avatar model to predict drug sensitivity/resistance in advanced cancer patients at baseline and to test the most recently developed cancer therapies. Finally, the team proposes to improve the efficacy of the model and develop a “humanized” CAM Avatar model that can be used for testing immunotherapy strategies.

Expected achievements/Impact : For the patient and health care system, the identification of a personalized therapeutic regimen will greatly reduce the cost and toxicity associated with non-targeted chemotherapeutic approaches and immunotherapy. Technological advances in improving the CAM model efficacy should also enable the team to file patent applications. This commercial model will not only benefit academic researchers and clinicians but also has the potential to become mainstream for pharmaceutical companies.

Principal Investigator:
Claire Dubois
Université de Sherbrooke
Patrick McDonald,
Lee-Hwa Tai,
Claudio Jeldres,
Nicolas Gevry,
Sébastien Rodrigue,
Pierre-Étienne Jacques

Université de Sherbrooke
Ongoing Project
$ 1,366,000 / 3 years
Supported by CQDM through:
And by co-funding partners:
– Prometic Biosciences
– Immune Biosolutions
– Faculté de médecine et des sciences de la santé de l’Université de Sherbrooke
– Centre de recherche du CHUS
– Mitacs
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