Tuesday, December 20, 2022
An avatar is quickly proving to be more than just a VR novelty. As our understanding of human biology improves, the concept of a “medical avatar” is entering the medical field in a big way – particularly for cancer patients.
Sometimes referred to as “Personalized Medicine”, the idea of developing physical avatars has been a subject of continuous innovation in medicine. Sampling human tumors and grafting them onto animal hosts allows physicians and researchers to test the efficacy of certain drugs while limiting the risk to human patients. For certain types of cancer, the practice is considered the standard treatment and helps develop safe and effective treatment plans.
Revolutionizing the physical avatar is also the goal of one particular company based in Taiwan. CancerFree Biotech, which just beat 1,000 other teams and won the grand prize investment of $1,000,000 in the final of “Meet the Drapers Season 5”, has developed the world’s first commercialized Circulating Tumor Cell-derived organoid culture system. Through their Ex-Vivo Avatar (E.V.A.) technology, the company greatly accelerates the process of tailoring a treatment plan for a patient’s particular condition. By isolating Circulating Tumor Cells from the bloodstream and using 3D scaffolding to facilitate tumor cell growth, E.V.A. can mimic tumor response to drug treatments using a blood sample of only 20 ml (0.67 oz). This allows physicians to develop a physical avatar in a much shorter time frame and with far less patient risk than traditional biopsy and graft techniques, which can be challenging when the primary tumor is in an inaccessible location.
The accelerated process reduces the delay from testing different therapies, reduces the risk of side effects, and prevents the development of drug resistance. By replicating tumor cells in an in-vivo environment, CancerFree Biotech claims a proliferate rate between 1,000 to 100,000 folds within four weeks with a 90% success rate.
Such developments in both physical and digital avatars hold great promise with breakthroughs in combining traditional techniques with digital innovations such as AI technology, big data, and even the metaverse. The 2022 Avatar Medicine Forum, organized by CancerFree Biotech, focuses on the direct benefits and various ripple effects of these innovations and the potential to overcome the limitations of distance, location, and time.
“Nowadays, AI technology has achieved major success in medical development,” says Po Chen, founder, and CEO of CancerFree Biotech. “With consideration of human biological materials, such as DNA, RNA, and protein functions, researchers and physicians are able to build a digitized bio-information system – a ‘virtual avatar’ – which simulates the drug efficacy of tumor development in the specific patient. By combining both physical and virtual avatars, we believe that a world with efficient cancer treatment tailored according to patients’ physical and economic condition is possible.”
The online forum will feature developments in both physical and virtual avatar technologies. Notable speakers include Michael C. Lu, Dean, UC Berkeley School of Public Health; Jacqueline Whang-Peng, Academician, Academia Sinica, R.O.C.; Shawn Chae, CMO, CLECELL Co. Ltd; and Long-Sheng Lu, Director, Center for Cell Therapy, Taipei Medical University Hospital. The event promises to bridge academia and industry, showcasing promising innovations in both research and therapy.
Long-Sheng Lu, Director, Center for Cell Therapy, Taipei Medical University Hospital
“Modern technological developments give us the tools to understand individual patients’ conditions in more detail than ever before,” says Chen. “With the COVID-19 pandemic sparking a new global interest in integrating new technology into medicine, this is the best time for us to modernize oncology by tailoring treatment to the patient and their particular conditions. Avatar medicine could be the key to unlocking this next level of medical care.”
The 2022 Avatar Medicine Forum will be held online on December 21, 2022.
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