17 Dec 2019

Zebrafish “avatars” can help decide who should receive radiotherapy treatment

To date, there is no method for clearly determining whether radiotherapy will be an effective treatment for individual cancer patients. This is a significant problem as patients may be unnecessarily subjected to potentially severe side effects. A new assay offers a promising solution with rapid, personalized radiotherapy compatibility testing, using zebrafish as avatars.

Zebrafish “avatars” can help decide who should receive radiotherapy treatment

Radiotherapy can effectively reduce or even eliminate some tumours; others, however, show enduring resistance. Considering the potentially harmful side effects of radiotherapy, clinicians agree that it is paramount to be able to determine if a patient will benefit from radiotherapy before exposing them to any of the associated risks.

Despite significant efforts to develop biomarkers that can assess the potential efficacy of radiotherapy treatment for individual patients, there is currently no established diagnostic test that can provide a clear answer.

To address this urgent need, a multidisciplinary team working at the Champalimaud Centre for the Unknown in Lisbon, Portugal, developed a novel assay for quick radio-sensitivity diagnosis. Depending on the success of upcoming clinical trials, this assay may become a standard personalized medicine tool within a few years. Their results were published today (December 17th) in the scientific journal EBioMedicine, a biomedical open access journal, published by The Lancet.

Read the full story here.


Human rectal-tumor cells (pink) are tested for radio-sensitivity using a zebrafish avatar. Credit: Bruna Costa & Rita Fior.