Circumventing the need for predictive biomarkers in personalized ovarian cancer therapies: empirical chemosensitivity testing using a microfluidics-based multiplex platform

Challenge: Ovarian cancer is a leading cause of cancer death in women. Only a fraction of women diagnosed with ovarian cancer will respond to current therapies. In order to better tailor treatment to each patient, personalized medicine has turned to biomarkers that statistically evaluate the chances of a drug to be effective for a patient. Nevertheless, there is currently no clinical method available to test patient’s tissue response to chemotherapy agents.

Solution: The team proposed a novel approach whereby tumour cells are tested for their response to multiple drugs in a controlled environment. Similar previous approaches have failed because they did not consider the specific features of the tumour tissue and its environment, were expensive, and could not be performed rapidly enough to influence clinical decision-makers. To address these concerns, the research team has developed an innovative, low-cost, multilayer microfluidic device within which patient’s ovarian 3D spheroids or micro-dissected tumour tissues can be entrapped and analyzed for their sensitivity to multiple chemotherapeutics in parallel. Both cells and tissues can be cultured and treated with anticancer agents for at least 10 days within these devices, which makes them suitable for clinical decision-making. Indeed, treating tumour samples with carboplatin demonstrated that the patient’s cells response to the drug within the device was correlated with the clinical response.

Achievements/Impact: The team has developed a microfluidic system to test the sensitivity of tumour cells to chemotherapeutic agents with high viability rates in a time frame compatible with patient treatments. The platform can also be used to test new compounds against multiple solid tumour types including prostate, breast, colon, and lung cancer. Such a personalized medicine approach not only results in superior medical care by improving effectiveness while diminishing toxicities, but also impacts
directly on health economics and quality of life issues. The team is continuing the development of the technology and has leveraged more than $2.5M funding to achieve this goal.
















Principal Investigator:

Anne-Marie Mes-Masson
Centre hospitalier de l’Université
de Montréal (CHUM)


Thomas Gervais
Frédéric Lesage
Polytechnique Montréal

Completed project
$300,000 / 2 ans
Supported by CQDM through:
• AstraZeneca
• Boehringer Ingelheim
• Eli Lilly
• Merck
• Pfizer