From the Labs

The CLAHRC WM Director has never been able to resolve the following paradox – when treating infections, microbial chemosensitivity is tested in the laboratory to select the antibiotic for use in the patient, but when treating cancer, in vitro chemosensitivity testing is not carried out. Part of the answer may come from a recent paper in Nature,[1] which shows that most cancers are polyclonal – they are constituted of a mix of different cell types which assist each other’s growth in a symbiotic way. So a biopsy may yield cells from only one clone and give a misleading result when tested in the lab. Of course, the bug that is cultured in the lab may also not be the one that is actually causing the disease, so the dissonance is not completely resolved.

However, cell culture is giving way to molecular genotyping for both infections and cancer. In time, the genetic signature will do more than just classify cancers and germs, but will also enable virulence and chemosensitivity to be determined. The massive organisational implications of these scientific advances at home and abroad are core CLAHRC business, as discussed earlier in this News Blog.

— Richard Lilford, CLAHRC WM Director


  1. Murusyk A, Tabassum DP, Altrock PM, Almendro V, Michor F, Polyak K. Non-cell-autonomous driving of tumour growth supports sub-clonal heterogeneity. Nature. 2014; 514: 54-9.

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