The AGORA-ISREC Foundation-EPFL Workshop: Organoids in Cancer Research // Image: @Saba Rezakhani, Lütolf lab/EPFL

The scientific community of the AGORA Cancer Research Center, together with the EPFL Bioengineering Technology platform and ISREC Foundation, are organizing  a one-day workshop on Organoids in Cancer Research on November  24, 2021.  

The workshop will take place “in person” and will be a Covid-safe event (Covid vaccination or proof of recovery required) in the AGORA .

The workshop will cover topics relevant for in vitro tumor-stroma co-cultures, tissue explants, tumoroids, and organoids as well as the associated imaging and ‘omics analyses linked to understanding normal and transformed states.  It will be explored how this technology can best serve cancer research and cancer therapy.

Unfortunately, space was limited the workshop is now full. Hence, we have closed the registration.


  • Speakers from AGORA and the Lemanic region selected for short talks from abstracts
  • Breakout sessions with short talks on top 3 or 4 selected themes and techniques
    • Tumor explants and organoids (co-)culture as in vitro models of cancer – How complex is simple enough 
    • ‘Omics’ and data integration from ex vivo Standardization, AI, and Patient avatars for personalised medicine -Clinical application
    • Drug and genetic screening with organoids – Technical challenges 
    • Complementarity of animal models and human organoids – Proof of concept and 3R
  • Student and postdoc participation highly encouraged
    • Poster session with poster awards
  • The workshop is in the process of being officially recognised as ½-1 day of continuing education for persons conducting animal experimentation.

Organoids and tumor explant cultures in vitro provide an exciting avenue of research for the optimization of drug development, cancer patient profiling and human tumor studies. Coupled with these new culture systems, high-resolution, long-term imaging gives us an effective tool for high-throughput screening, transcriptomics, and the testing of mutants, compounds, and pathway inhibition in human cells.  It has long been recognized that human cells in single layer culture fail to preserve important functional features of tumor biology. Differentiation states are altered by the absence of 3D structure, and of interactive stroma and cell-cell contacts.  Existing systems such as animal models (so-called ‘xenografts’) or tumor organoids (‘tumoroids’) mimic some aspects of the patient tumor but yet have significant shortcomings related to scalability, lack of immunobiology (xenografts, tumoroids), and sometimes, inappropriate time frames for culturing and differentiation. Still, the use of organoids and tumoroids is proliferating in preclinical and clinical settings, and recent advances in growing patient-derived tumor fragments that retain the multicellular, anatomical, and functional complexity of the original tumor are a promising means to tackle this problem.

To advance both the knowledge and networking in this field, we plan a one-day workshop at the AGORA cancer research center, in which we will explore state-of-the-art tumoroid and organoid analysis, culturing and use in screening, as well as progress in culturing tumor explants. Many of these methods are still in development. New applications for organoid and tumor explants in preclinical and clinical research will be discussed in this one day workshop on Organoids in Cancer Research, along with the technical aspects of cultivation, characterization, immunodetection, imaging, and machine learning-driven analysis. Plenary sessions will feature leading scientists in these fields, and are followed by poster sessions and breakout sessions for discussions in a smaller settings. Postdocs and students engaged in related research and postdocs are strongly encouraged to participate.

9:00 – 9:20 Welcome and registration

9:20 – 9:30 – Introduction by Susan Gasser (ISREC Foundation) and Gaspard Pardon (EPFL Bioengineering and Technology platform / Agora)

9:30 – 11:00 – Plenary session (3 x 30 min talks + questions)  

11:00 – 13:00 – Poster session

12:00 – 13:00 – Lunch

13:00  – 14:00 – Plenary talks (2x 30 min talks + questions)

 14:15 – 15:45 – Break out sessions with short talks on top 3 or 4 selected themes

  • Tumor explants and organoids (co-)culture as in vitro models of cancer – How complex is simple enough 
  • ‘Omics’ and data integration from ex vivo complex systems over time – Standardization and AI
  • Drug and genetic screening with organoids – Technical challenges 
  • Patient avatars for personalised medicine – Clinical application 
  • Complementarity of animal models and human organoids – Proof of concept and 3R

16:00 – 17:30 – Short talks selected from abstracts (5 x 12 min + 3 min questions) and short recap of breakout sessions (3-4 x 5 min)

17:30 – 19:00 – APERO + Poster session (same posters)  and POSTER AWARDS.

November 24, 2021, from 9:00 to 18:30

AGORA Cancer Research Center, Rue du Bugnon 25A, 1005 Lausanne

Metro M2 – CHUV

Public transport is advised as parking space limited in the area.

Consider P+R Venne or P+R Ouchy + metro M2 as a good alternative if commuting by car.

What we do:

The Bioengineering and Technology (BET) platform is a new platform of EPFL School of Life Sciences. The BET platform is currently being established at the AGORA Cancer Research Center in Lausanne to develop and share bioengineering expertise in the space of cancer research. 

Currently located in the new AGORA Cancer Research Center next to the CHUV hospital in Lausanne, the BET platform aims to serve as a bidirectional bridge between the biomedical and EPFL research communities. We enable your translational research with with the latest technologies and knowhow coming out of EPFL and the larger engineering community. We augment and accelerate your engineering of innovative assays and technologies by facilitating access to the clinical and translational landscape and expertise.

Work in the platform is underpinned by a research and development function which undertakes continual improvement in order to introduce new techniques and to increase capacity and quality of existing ones.

We aim to be active throughout the users’ projects cycle, including identification of needs, prototype design, implementation, application and analysis. We aim to offer creative, collaborative lab, where skills, ideas and techniques can be shared and maintained. We aim is to help researcher design and produces their own devices, assay and prototypes to resolve their research questions. We also aim to facilitate the liaison with external production experts and to facilitate the maturation of technologies with commercial potential at the pre-incubation phase. For this we work closely with the local innovation and industrialization offices.

The ISREC Foundation recently created a new translational cancer center in Lausanne – the AGORA –  which brings together labs from EPFL, UNIL, and the Oncology departments of Uni Geneva (HUG) and Uni Lausanne (CHUV). The goal of this cancer center is to bridge the gap from cutting edge biological and bioengineering techniques to novel therapeutics, with the aim of improving care for cancer patients.  Outstanding basic research groups and highly motivated clinician scientists work together alongside cutting-edge technology platforms, which enhance and facilitate the transfer of basic knowledge in cell and organismal biology to innovative therapies for cancer patients.

The ISREC Foundation has served the cancer research community in Switzerland for over 50 years, and continues to support research that will change the face of oncology – in Lausanne, Geneva and across Switzerland.

The Angiogenesis and Tumor Microenvironment (De Palma lab) laboratory investigates the interactions between genetically altered cancer cells and the ostensibly normal host tissues in which tumors arise, progress and develop to metastatic disease. We focus on the cross talk between malignant cells and the vascular system, immune cells, and secreted extracellular vesicles (exosomes), and the mechanisms whereby these heterotypic interactions regulate tumor progression in experimental cancer models. This is being studied primarily in genetic models of breast and lung cancer, and melanoma, in which both malignant and host cells are engineered to be visualized or depleted, or to modify their expression of genes of interest. Furthermore, we examine how the interplay between the tumor and the host can be harnessed for improving tumor response to anti-cancer therapies, in particular immunotherapies.

The Roche Institute for Translational Bioengineering (ITB) has been established in Basel to harness and advance the use of new human model technologies in discovery and early phase drug development.

Over the past decade, Roche has been a pioneer in techniques that use human model systems to predict the clinical safety and efficacy of potential new treatments.

The nature of current animal models can be unreliable when predicting what happens in patients. Recent breakthroughs using human cell culture technologies have shown that they can predict clinical safety, efficacy and pharmacokinetics with a greater degree of accuracy. Data from these new tissue and disease models will augment in silico algorithms used for modelling and simulation.

Roche’s work in this emerging area focuses on organoids, tiny, self-organised three-dimensional tissue cultures derived from stem cells, as well as “organs-on-a-chip”. Such next-generation cultures can be designed to replicate the structural and functional complexity of a human organ, or to express selected aspects, such as producing only certain types of tissues. “Organ-on-a-chip” technology enables researchers to cultivate human cells representing organs under physiological conditions such as mechanical stimuli.

The ITB is structurally independent from other pRED research groups, yet works closely alongside them to accelerate the adoption of human model systems that can transform the way we do drug development.

Matthias Lutolf, Full Professor at the Institute of Bioengineering and the Institute of Chemical Sciences and Engineering of École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), Switzerland, has become the Scientific Director for the Roche ITB since 1st June, 2021.