Patient-derived Immunocompetent Tumor Organoids: A Platform for Chemotherapy Evaluation in the Context of T-cell Recognition
Most of anticancer compounds synthesized by chemists are primarily evaluated for their direct cytotoxic effects at the cellular level, often overlooking the critical role of the immune system. In this study, we have developed a patient-derived, T-cell-retaining tumor organoid model that allows us to evaluate the anticancer efficacy of chemical drugs under the synergistic paradigm of antigen-specific T-cell-dependent killing, which may reveal the missed drug hits in the simple cytotoxic assay. We evaluated clinically approved platinum (Pt) drugs and a custom library of twenty-eight PtIV compounds in this platform. We observed low direct cytotoxicity of clinically used Pt drugs, but variable synergistic effects in combination with immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICIs) in different patients. In contrast, the majority of PtIV compounds exhibited potent tumor killing capabilities. Interestingly, several PtIV compounds went beyond direct tumor killing and showed significant immunosynergistic effects with ICIs, especially being outstanding at sub-micromolar concentrations. Among these, Pt-19, PtIV compounds with cinnamate axial ligands, emerged as the most therapeutically potent, showing pronounced immunosynergistic effects by promoting the release of cytotoxic cytokines, activating immune-related pathways and enhancing TCR clonal expansion. Overall, this initiative marks the first use of patient-derived immunocompetent tumor organoids to explore and study chemotherapy, advancing their path toward more effective small molecule drug discovery.