Cancer: Ex Vivo Study

A collaborative team of Mayo Clinic scientists is studying an innovative strategy for treating advanced cancer, using genomics and human tumor samples as their guides. The novel approach, called Ex Vivo, creates a miniature cancer replica for testing therapies outside a patient's body, guided by a comprehensive genomic analysis of the patient's cancer cells. The Ex Vivo strategy centers on finding treatment options by knowing the full story of each tumor and recognizing every patient's cancer as a unique disease of mutated cells.

The Ex Vivo process starts with taking a small biopsy of a patient's cancer tumor and dissecting the genetic details at high resolution to find the tumor's unique evolutionary state and its aggressive potential.

After uncovering the cancer's genomic road map, the second part of the study involves testing drugs on the cancer cells; this can include existing approved drugs that have already been approved by the Food and Drug Administration as well as investigational drugs.

In this step, the team uses a second piece of the patient's tumor to create 3D miniature cancer replicas. Then, small numbers of cells are divided into liquid droplets, where the cells regroup, adhere to each other and form miniature versions of the tumor that was originally inside the patient's body. Each set of miniature cancer models can screen dozens of drug candidates, including combinations.

Testing a drug on the tumor before testing it in the patient can potentially resolve questions about optimal application of therapies. Ex Vivo seeks to eliminate the trial-and-error process of patients being exposed to drugs that are often toxic and provide no benefit. The long-term goal of the Ex Vivo team is to bring the procedure into routine clinical use.


The Ex Vivo study is open to Mayo Clinic patients with aggressive tumors who are identified as suitable for the study by their Mayo clinicians and the study chairs.


Contact Ex Vivo study co-chair George Vasmatzis, Ph.D., at for more information.

You can also contact the Center for Individualized Medicine for information on clinical studies and trials.