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Organ Donors Contribute to Innovative Cancer Research

In May 2019, WRTC provided its first donor liver to the National Cancer Institute (NCI) for an ongoing cancer research study. NCI is conducting experiments to see how drugs access an organ and treat cancer in hopes of learning more about the ways cancer spreads and exploring alternative models for cancer treatment. As soon as the liver from WRTC arrived at NCI, it was placed on an ex-vivo perfusion machine (or pump) that simulates the human body and allows liquid to flow or be pumped through the vessels of an organ. The liver functioned outside of the body for 30 hours.

Dr. Michael Wach, a surgical oncology research fellow at NCI, said a human liver is the “gold standard” for experimentation and allows researchers “to look at cancer as we haven’t before.”

Wach said while they’ve come a long way since the days of conducting research on mice and using petri dishes, when this study initially launched in 2017, researchers placed a pig liver on the ex-perfusion machine. They were fascinated to learn that the liver produced bile outside of the body.

In addition to the liver, WRTC also provided a pancreas for this project last winter and in the future will look to recover intestines for NCI. The objective of the study is to gather information that will help develop an oncology drug that will receive FDA approval. Right now, the majority of new cancer medicines aren’t making their way out of testing which is a major obstacle in the progress of cancer care. The success of this research could make great leaps forward for cancer therapy and could ultimately help treat and potentially cure an incredible number of patients.

Thanks to our generous donors, WRTC has allocated 52 organs for research through May 2019 and recovered 38 tissues for research purposes.