KU Medical Center debuts new cancer treatment research lab

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - A new lab opening at the University of Kansas Medical Center is expected to produce one-of-a-kind research and could provide personalized treatment plans for cancer patients.

Doctor Omar Aljitawi started his research three years ago and is proud to now have four benches of space in a lab slated to open Wednesday where he will continue his work.

Aljitawi and another doctor and researcher at KU Medical Center will spearhead the lab along with alother doctor, Tara Lin and research assistant Megan Swink-Brown.

"It was a dream come true," Aljitawi said.

They are making 3D models of blood cancers like Leukemia or Myeloma just like they are found in the body surrounded by other cells.

The models are kept in small vials and when shown up close, look like small balls in a bath of liquid. Aljitawi believes it could be the wave of the future.

"Basically, creating a tumor model, a cancer model in the lab that is in three dimensions," Aljitawi said. "When patients come in, we can get their cancer cells, grow them in this three dimensional model and test them in the lab to determine what is the best treatment for them."

If the doctors can test the cancer in the lab first, he believes they can start to personalize cancer treatment plans and give the patient exactly what he or she needs. 

"Some chemotherapy, if you put it in a certain setting, you get a certain response. If you put it in a different setting, you don't get a response. That's why we personalize the treatments," Aljitawi said.

Aljitawi's research is extensive and the lab will also be used for multiple other research projects.

One of those projects includes growing human hair, bones and skin from umbilical cord blood and increasing cancer patient recovery times by exposing them to hyperbaric oxygen therapy.

The goal is to continue to grow the lab in the coming years. 

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