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CBS2 visits high-tech Lustgarten Foundation research lab, as quest for pancreatic cancer personalized medicine continues

Lustgarten Foundation funnels 100% of donations into pancreatic cancer research 02:37

COLD SPRING HARBOR, N.Y. -- The Lustgarten Foundation funnels 100 percent of donations into pancreatic cancer research. Some of the money helps funds a high-tech lab, where scientists work toward personalized medicine.

The jiggly dome seen on a screen was a magnified 3D matrix that mimics the human body. Growing inside was an organoid.

"This is one individual giant large organoid," Dr. Amber Habowski. of the Tuveson Lab in Cold Spring Harbor, showed CBS2's Vanessa Murdock.

READ MOREPromising New Method May Offer Hope For Pancreatic Cancer Patients   

Habowski explained that an organoid is a live tissue model that is grown in the lab. Technicians receive samples from pancreatic cancer patient biopsies or surgeries.

"We isolate and try to grow the malignant cells from their cancer," Habowski said.

Incubators provide the perfect conditions for growth. After a few weeks, a trained eye identifies ideal samples to run tests on -- drug tests.

"The finished version is a plate that has all these different concentrations of different drugs," Habowski said.

READ MOREJoin us April 10 for the Lustgarten Pancreatic Cancer Research Walk   

Roughly 100 different tests run on an organoid line at once. After five days of exposure, plates get read.

"You see a lot of red. That means the cells are alive," Habowski said. "These experimental drugs are not working."

The cancer still wins, but another plate reveals more promising results -- a step closer to personalized medicine.

"Is the turnaround time quick enough that the human tissue sample that you grow and test on can then be used to then treat the same patient that the tissue sample is from?" Murdock asked.

"Our average turnaround time from when we receive tissue to when we have drug screen results is about three to upwards of eight weeks. So, in some cases, that's not quite quick enough for first-line therapy. We really would love a one- to two-week turnaround," Habowski said.

READ MOREFDA Approves Use Of Drug Lynparza For Pancreatic Cancer  

Dr. Andy Rakeman, the vice president of research at Lustgarten, said the facility represents the vision and progress the Foundation makes possible.

"We've just recently had a milestone where we crossed 10 percent average survival for five years for patients diagnosed with pancreas cancer," Rakeman said.

He said those rates are still unacceptably low and that the research must continue and does. Organoids get stored cryogenically so drug-resilient cancer cells can be tested again and again until the right cure is found.

CBS2 is a proud media sponsor for Lustgarten Foundation. On Sunday, the New York City Walk for Pancreatic Research takes place at Pier 84. There is still time to register. For more information, please click here and here.

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