Three-dimensional in vitro tumor models for cancer research and drug evaluation
Farach-Carson, Mary C.
Cancer occurs when cells acquire genomic instability and inflammation, produce abnormal levels of epigenetic factors/proteins and tumor suppressors, reprogram the energy metabolism and evade immune destruction, leading to the disruption of cell cycle/normal growth. An early event in carcinogenesis is loss of polarity and detachment from the natural basement membrane, allowing cells to form distinct three-dimensional (3D) structures that interact with each other and with the surrounding microenvironment. Although valuable information has been accumulated from traditional in vitro studies in which cells are grown on flat and hard plastic surfaces (2D culture), this culture condition does not reflect the essential features of tumor tissues. Further, fundamental understanding of cancer metastasis cannot be obtained readily from 2D studies because they lack the complex and dynamic cell-cell communications and cell?matrix interactions that occur during cancer metastasis. These shortcomings, along with lack of spatial depth and cell connectivity, limit the applicability of 2D cultures to accurate testing of pharmacologically active compounds, free or sequestered in nanoparticles. To recapitulate features of native tumor microenvironments, various biomimetic 3D tumor models have been developed to incorporate cancer and stromal cells, relevant matrix components, and biochemical and biophysical cues, into one spatially and temporally integrated system. In this article, we review recent advances in creating 3D tumor models employing tissue engineering principles. We then evaluate the utilities of these novel models for the testing of anticancer drugs and their delivery systems. We highlight the profound differences in responses from 3D in vitro tumors and conventional monolayer cultures. Overall, strategic integration of biological principles and engineering approaches will both improve understanding of tumor progression and invasion and support discovery of more personalized first line treatments for cancer patients.