Accelerating glioblastoma drug discovery: Convergence of patient-derived models, genome editing and phenotypic screening
Patients diagnosed with glioblastoma (GBM) continue to face a bleak prognosis. It is critical that new effective therapeutic strategies are developed. GBM stem cells have molecular hallmarks of neural stem and progenitor cells and it is possible to propagate both non-transformed normal neural stem cells and GBM stem cells, in defined, feeder-free, adherent culture. These primary stem cell lines provide an experimental model that is ideally suited to cell-based drug discovery or genetic screens in order to identify tumour-specific vulnerabilities. For many solid tumours, including GBM, the genetic disruptions that drive tumour initiation and growth have now been catalogued. CRISPR/Cas-based genome editing technologies have recently emerged, transforming our ability to functionally annotate the human genome. Genome editing opens prospects for engineering precise genetic changes in normal and GBM-derived neural stem cells, which will provide more defined and reliable genetic models, with critical matched pairs of isogenic cell lines. Generation of more complex alleles such as knock in tags or fluorescent reporters is also now possible. These new cellular models can be deployed in cell-based phenotypic drug discovery (PDD). Here we discuss the convergence of these advanced technologies (iPS cells, neural stem cell culture, genome editing and high content phenotypic screening) and how they herald a new era in human cellular genetics that should have a major impact in accelerating glioblastoma drug discovery.