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Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 2013 Apr 12;433(3):327-32. doi: 10.1016/j.bbrc.2013.03.008. Epub 2013 Mar 15.

A multicellular 3D heterospheroid model of liver tumor and stromal cells in collagen gel for anti-cancer drug testing.

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Department of Biomedical Engineering, New Jersey Institute of Technology, Newark, NJ 07102, USA.


Two-dimensional (2D) monolayer cultures are the standard in vitro model for cancer research. However, they fail to recapitulate the three-dimensional (3D) environment and quickly lose their function. In this study, we developed a new 3D multicellular heterospheroid tumor model in a collagen hydrogel culture system that more closely mimics the in vivo tumor microenvironment for anti-cancer drug testing. Three aspects of cancer were chosen to be modeled based on their ability to resist anti-cancer drugs: 3D, multicellularity, and extracellular matrix (ECM) barrier. The hanging drop method and co-culture of liver carcinoma with stromal fibroblasts were used to form controlled and uniform heterospheroids. These heterospheroids were then encapsulated in collagen gel in order to create a 3D model of liver cancer that would act more similarly to in vivo ECM conditions. The 3D heterospheroid tumor model was tested with an anti-cancer drug to determine how each of the above aspects affects drug resistance. The results demonstrate that the 3D heterospheroid model is more resistant to drug over 2D monolayer and homospheroid cultures, indicating stromal fibroblasts and collagen hydrogel culture system provides more resistance to anti-cancer drug. This study will provide useful information toward the development of improved biomimetic tumor models in vitro for cancer research in pre-clinical drug development.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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