Glioblastoma organoids: Pre-clinical applications and challenges in the context of immunotherapy.
Malignant brain tumors remain uniformly fatal, even with the best-to-date treatment. For Glioblastoma (GBM), the most severe form of brain cancer in adults, the median overall survival is roughly over a year. New therapeutic options are urgently needed, yet recent clinical trials in the field have been largely disappointing. This is partially due to inappropriate preclinical model systems, which do not reflect the complexity of patient tumors. Furthermore, clinically relevant patient-derived models recapitulating the immune compartment are lacking, which represents a bottleneck for adequate immunotherapy testing. Emerging 3D organoid cultures offer innovative possibilities for cancer modeling. Here, we review available GBM organoid models amenable to a large variety of pre-clinical applications including functional bioassays such as proliferation and invasion, drug screening, and the generation of patient-derived orthotopic xenografts (PDOX) for validation of biological responses in vivo. We emphasize advantages and technical challenges in establishing immunocompetent ex vivo models based on co-cultures of GBM organoids and human immune cells. The latter can be isolated either from the tumor or from patient or donor blood as peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs). We also discuss the challenges to generate GBM PDOXs based on humanized mouse models to validate efficacy of immunotherapies in vivo. A detailed characterization of such models at the cellular and molecular level is needed to understand the potential and limitations for various immune activating strategies. Increasing the availability of immunocompetent GBM models will improve research on emerging immune therapeutic approaches against aggressive brain cancer.