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J Pathol. 2005 Mar;205(4):468-75.

Development of a quantitative method to analyse tumour cell invasion in organotypic culture.

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Tumour Biology Laboratory, Cancer Research UK Clinical Centre, Queen Mary's School of Medicine and Dentistry at Barts and the London, London, UK.


Tumour invasion is a dynamic process occurring in three dimensions and involving interactions between both tumour and stromal cells. Experimental analysis of squamous carcinoma cell invasion has often used the organotypic gel culture system, which is generated by plating tumour cells on to a synthetic stroma composed of a collagen gel embedded with fibroblasts. Unfortunately, quantitation of invasion in these organotypic gels has relied largely on subjective pathological opinion, which may be influenced by different patterns of tumour cell infiltration. Therefore a computer-assisted digital image analysis system that assesses invasion objectively and provides a numerical 'Invasion Index' was developed. The Invasion Index, by combining depth and pattern of invasion in a single value, establishes a quantitative value that allows assessment of the influences of positive and negative regulation of tumour invasion. These data demonstrate that the organotypic gel system is a robust, accurate, and reproducible method for measuring tumour cell invasion. They also show that the Invasion Index can be used after organotypic gels have been implanted in mice for up to 6 weeks. Illustrative examples of how various factors influence the invasion of squamous carcinoma cells in three dimensions both in vitro and in vivo are provided.

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