Cancer cell spheroids present a relevant in vitro model of avascular tumors for anti-cancer drug testing applications. A detailed protocol for producing both mono-culture and co-culture spheroids in a high throughput 96-well plate format is described in this work. This approach utilizes an aqueous two-phase system to confine cells into a drop of the denser aqueous phase immersed within the second aqueous phase. The drop rests on the well surface and keeps cells in close proximity to form a single spheroid. This technology has been adapted to a robotic liquid handler to produce size-controlled spheroids and expedite the process of spheroid production for compound screening applications. Spheroids treated with a clinically-used drug show reduced cell viability with increase in the drug dose. The use of a standard micro-well plate for spheroid generation makes it straightforward to analyze viability of cancer cells of drug-treated spheroids with a micro-plate reader. This technology is straightforward to implement both robotically and with other liquid handling tools such as manual pipettes.
17 Related JoVE Articles!
Three-Dimensional (3D) Tumor Spheroid Invasion Assay
Institutions: The Institute of Cancer Research, The Institute of Cancer Research.
Invasion of surrounding normal tissues is generally considered to be a key hallmark of malignant (as opposed to benign) tumors. For some cancers in particular (e.g
., brain tumors such as glioblastoma multiforme
and squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck – SCCHN) it is a cause of severe morbidity and can be life-threatening even in the absence of distant metastases. In addition, cancers which have relapsed following treatment unfortunately often present with a more aggressive phenotype. Therefore, there is an opportunity to target the process of invasion to provide novel therapies that could be complementary to standard anti-proliferative agents. Until now, this strategy has been hampered by the lack of robust, reproducible assays suitable for a detailed analysis of invasion and for drug screening. Here we provide a simple micro-plate method (based on uniform, self-assembling 3D tumor spheroids) which has great potential for such studies. We exemplify the assay platform using a human glioblastoma cell line and also an SCCHN model where the development of resistance against targeted epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) inhibitors is associated with enhanced matrix-invasive potential. We also provide two alternative methods of semi-automated quantification: one using an imaging cytometer and a second which simply requires standard microscopy and image capture with digital image analysis.
Medicine, Issue 99, invasion, metastasis, 3D, tumor spheroids, extracellular matrix, imaging, high-throughput, drug development.
Heterotypic Three-dimensional In Vitro Modeling of Stromal-Epithelial Interactions During Ovarian Cancer Initiation and Progression
Institutions: University of Southern California, University College London.
Epithelial ovarian cancers (EOCs) are the leading cause of death from gynecological malignancy in Western societies. Despite advances in surgical treatments and improved platinum-based chemotherapies, there has been little improvement in EOC survival rates for more than four decades 1,2
. Whilst stage I tumors have 5-year survival rates >85%, survival rates for stage III/IV disease are <40%. Thus, the high rates of mortality for EOC could be significantly decreased if tumors were detected at earlier, more treatable, stages 3-5
. At present, the molecular genetic and biological basis of early stage disease development is poorly understood. More specifically, little is known about the role of the microenvironment during tumor initiation; but known risk factors for EOCs (e.g.
age and parity) suggest that the microenvironment plays a key role in the early genesis of EOCs. We therefore developed three-dimensional heterotypic models of both the normal ovary and of early stage ovarian cancers. For the normal ovary, we co-cultured normal ovarian surface epithelial (IOSE) and normal stromal fibroblast (INOF) cells, immortalized by retrovrial transduction of the catalytic subunit of human telomerase holoenzyme (hTERT
) to extend the lifespan of these cells in culture. To model the earliest stages of ovarian epithelial cell transformation, overexpression of the CMYC
oncogene in IOSE cells, again co-cultured with INOF cells. These heterotypic models were used to investigate the effects of aging and senescence on the transformation and invasion of epithelial cells. Here we describe the methodological steps in development of these three-dimensional model; these methodologies aren't specific to the development of normal ovary and ovarian cancer tissues, and could be used to study other tissue types where stromal and epithelial cell interactions are a fundamental aspect of the tissue maintenance and disease development.
Cancer Biology, Issue 66, Medicine, Tissue Engineering, three-dimensional cultures, stromal-epithelial interactions, epithelial ovarian cancer, ovarian surface epithelium, ovarian fibroblasts, tumor initiation
Assessment of Ovarian Cancer Spheroid Attachment and Invasion of Mesothelial Cells in Real Time
Institutions: MIMR-PHI Institute of Medical Research, Monash University.
Ovarian cancers metastasize by shedding into the peritoneal fluid and dispersing to distal sites within the peritoneum. Monolayer cultures do not accurately model the behaviors of cancer cells within a nonadherent environment, as cancer cells inherently aggregate into multicellular structures which contribute to the metastatic process by attaching to and invading the peritoneal lining to form secondary tumors. To model this important stage of ovarian cancer metastasis, multicellular aggregates, or spheroids, can be generated from established ovarian cancer cell lines maintained under nonadherent conditions. To mimic the peritoneal microenvironment encountered by tumor cells in vivo
, a spheroid-mesothelial co-culture model was established in which preformed spheroids are plated on top of a human mesothelial cell monolayer, formed over an extracellular matrix barrier. Methods were then developed using a real-time cell analyzer to conduct quantitative real time measurements of the invasive capacity of different ovarian cancer cell lines grown as spheroids. This approach allows for the continuous measurement of invasion over long periods of time, which has several advantages over traditional endpoint assays and more laborious real time microscopy image analyses. In short, this method enables a rapid, determination of factors which regulate the interactions between ovarian cancer spheroid cells invading through mesothelial and matrix barriers over time.
Medicine, Issue 87, Ovarian cancer, metastasis, invasion, mesothelial cells, spheroids, real time analysis
Methods for Culturing Human Femur Tissue Explants to Study Breast Cancer Cell Colonization of the Metastatic Niche
Institutions: Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford University School of Medicine.
Bone is the most common site of breast cancer metastasis. Although it is widely accepted that the microenvironment influences cancer cell behavior, little is known about breast cancer cell properties and behaviors within the native microenvironment of human bone tissue.
We have developed approaches to track, quantify and modulate human breast cancer cells within the microenvironment of cultured human bone tissue fragments isolated from discarded femoral heads following total hip replacement surgeries. Using breast cancer cells engineered for luciferase and enhanced green fluorescent protein (EGFP) expression, we are able to reproducibly quantitate migration and proliferation patterns using bioluminescence imaging (BLI), track cell interactions within the bone fragments using fluorescence microscopy, and evaluate breast cells after colonization with flow cytometry. The key advantages of this model include: 1) a native, architecturally intact tissue microenvironment that includes relevant human cell types, and 2) direct access to the microenvironment, which facilitates rapid quantitative and qualitative monitoring and perturbation of breast and bone cell properties, behaviors and interactions. A primary limitation, at present, is the finite viability of the tissue fragments, which confines the window of study to short-term culture. Applications of the model system include studying the basic biology of breast cancer and other bone-seeking malignancies within the metastatic niche, and developing therapeutic strategies to effectively target breast cancer cells in bone tissues.
Medicine, Issue 97, Metastatic niche, bone microenvironment, breast cancer metastasis, human bone, osteotropism, ex vivo model, explant culture system, bioluminescence imaging
In vitro Enrichment of Ovarian Cancer Tumor-initiating Cells
Institutions: National Cancer Institute.
Evidence suggests that small subpopulations of tumor cells maintain a unique self-renewing and differentiation capacity and may be responsible for tumor initiation and/or relapse. Clarifying the mechanisms by which these tumor-initiating cells (TICs) support tumor formation and progression could lead to the development of clinically favorable therapies. Ovarian cancer is a heterogeneous and highly recurrent disease. Recent studies suggest TICs may play an important role in disease biology. We have identified culture conditions that enrich for TICs from ovarian cancer cell lines. Growing either adherent cells or non-adherent ‘floater’ cells in a low attachment plate with serum free media in the presence of growth factors supports the propagation of ovarian cancer TICs with stem cell markers (CD133 and ALDH activity) and increased tumorigenicity without the need to physically separate the TICs from other cell types within the culture. Although the presence of floater cells is not common for all cell lines, this population of cells with innate low adherence may have high tumorigenic potential.Compared to adherent cells grown in the presence of serum, TICs readily form spheres, are significantly more tumorigenic in mice, and express putative stem cell markers. The conditions are easy to establish in a timely manner and can be used to study signaling pathways important for maintaining stem characteristics, and to identify drugs or combinations of drugs targeting TICs. The culture conditions described herein are applicable for a variety of ovarian cancer cells of epithelial origin and will be critical in providing new information about the role of TICs in tumor initiation, progression, and relapse.
Medicine, Issue 96, Ovarian cancer, tumor-initiating cells, cancer stem cell, tumorigenicity, spheroid, mouse, gynecological cancer
Ex Vivo Treatment Response of Primary Tumors and/or Associated Metastases for Preclinical and Clinical Development of Therapeutics
Institutions: Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Weill Cornell Medical College, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.
The molecular analysis of established cancer cell lines has been the mainstay of cancer research for the past several decades. Cell culture provides both direct and rapid analysis of therapeutic sensitivity and resistance. However, recent evidence suggests that therapeutic response is not exclusive to the inherent molecular composition of cancer cells but rather is greatly influenced by the tumor cell microenvironment, a feature that cannot be recapitulated by traditional culturing methods. Even implementation of tumor xenografts, though providing a wealth of information on drug delivery/efficacy, cannot capture the tumor cell/microenvironment crosstalk (i.e.
, soluble factors) that occurs within human tumors and greatly impacts tumor response. To this extent, we have developed an ex vivo
(fresh tissue sectioning) technique which allows for the direct assessment of treatment response for preclinical and clinical therapeutics development. This technique maintains tissue integrity and cellular architecture within the tumor cell/microenvironment context throughout treatment response providing a more precise means to assess drug efficacy.
Cancer Biology, Issue 92, Ex vivo sectioning, Treatment response, Sensitivity/Resistance, Drug development, Patient tumors, Preclinical and Clinical
Modeling Astrocytoma Pathogenesis In Vitro and In Vivo Using Cortical Astrocytes or Neural Stem Cells from Conditional, Genetically Engineered Mice
Institutions: University of North Carolina School of Medicine, University of North Carolina School of Medicine, University of North Carolina School of Medicine, University of North Carolina School of Medicine, University of North Carolina School of Medicine, Emory University School of Medicine, University of North Carolina School of Medicine.
Current astrocytoma models are limited in their ability to define the roles of oncogenic mutations in specific brain cell types during disease pathogenesis and their utility for preclinical drug development. In order to design a better model system for these applications, phenotypically wild-type cortical astrocytes and neural stem cells (NSC) from conditional, genetically engineered mice (GEM) that harbor various combinations of floxed oncogenic alleles were harvested and grown in culture. Genetic recombination was induced in vitro
using adenoviral Cre-mediated recombination, resulting in expression of mutated oncogenes and deletion of tumor suppressor genes. The phenotypic consequences of these mutations were defined by measuring proliferation, transformation, and drug response in vitro
. Orthotopic allograft models, whereby transformed cells are stereotactically injected into the brains of immune-competent, syngeneic littermates, were developed to define the role of oncogenic mutations and cell type on tumorigenesis in vivo
. Unlike most established human glioblastoma cell line xenografts, injection of transformed GEM-derived cortical astrocytes into the brains of immune-competent littermates produced astrocytomas, including the most aggressive subtype, glioblastoma, that recapitulated the histopathological hallmarks of human astrocytomas, including diffuse invasion of normal brain parenchyma. Bioluminescence imaging of orthotopic allografts from transformed astrocytes engineered to express luciferase was utilized to monitor in vivo
tumor growth over time. Thus, astrocytoma models using astrocytes and NSC harvested from GEM with conditional oncogenic alleles provide an integrated system to study the genetics and cell biology of astrocytoma pathogenesis in vitro
and in vivo
and may be useful in preclinical drug development for these devastating diseases.
Neuroscience, Issue 90, astrocytoma, cortical astrocytes, genetically engineered mice, glioblastoma, neural stem cells, orthotopic allograft
High-throughput Image Analysis of Tumor Spheroids: A User-friendly Software Application to Measure the Size of Spheroids Automatically and Accurately
Institutions: Raymond and Beverly Sackler Foundation, New Jersey, Rutgers University, Rutgers University, Institute for Advanced Study, New Jersey.
The increasing number of applications of three-dimensional (3D) tumor spheroids as an in vitro
model for drug discovery requires their adaptation to large-scale screening formats in every step of a drug screen, including large-scale image analysis. Currently there is no ready-to-use and free image analysis software to meet this large-scale format. Most existing methods involve manually drawing the length and width of the imaged 3D spheroids, which is a tedious and time-consuming process. This study presents a high-throughput image analysis software application – SpheroidSizer, which measures the major and minor axial length of the imaged 3D tumor spheroids automatically and accurately; calculates the volume of each individual 3D tumor spheroid; then outputs the results in two different forms in spreadsheets for easy manipulations in the subsequent data analysis. The main advantage of this software is its powerful image analysis application that is adapted for large numbers of images. It provides high-throughput computation and quality-control workflow. The estimated time to process 1,000 images is about 15 min on a minimally configured laptop, or around 1 min on a multi-core performance workstation. The graphical user interface (GUI) is also designed for easy quality control, and users can manually override the computer results. The key method used in this software is adapted from the active contour algorithm, also known as Snakes, which is especially suitable for images with uneven illumination and noisy background that often plagues automated imaging processing in high-throughput screens. The complimentary “Manual Initialize” and “Hand Draw” tools provide the flexibility to SpheroidSizer in dealing with various types of spheroids and diverse quality images. This high-throughput image analysis software remarkably reduces labor and speeds up the analysis process. Implementing this software is beneficial for 3D tumor spheroids to become a routine in vitro
model for drug screens in industry and academia.
Cancer Biology, Issue 89, computer programming, high-throughput, image analysis, tumor spheroids, 3D, software application, cancer therapy, drug screen, neuroendocrine tumor cell line, BON-1, cancer research
Longitudinal Measurement of Extracellular Matrix Rigidity in 3D Tumor Models Using Particle-tracking Microrheology
Institutions: University of Massachusetts Boston.
The mechanical microenvironment has been shown to act as a crucial regulator of tumor growth behavior and signaling, which is itself remodeled and modified as part of a set of complex, two-way mechanosensitive interactions. While the development of biologically-relevant 3D tumor models have facilitated mechanistic studies on the impact of matrix rheology on tumor growth, the inverse problem of mapping changes in the mechanical environment induced by tumors remains challenging. Here, we describe the implementation of particle-tracking microrheology (PTM) in conjunction with 3D models of pancreatic cancer as part of a robust and viable approach for longitudinally monitoring physical changes in the tumor microenvironment, in situ
. The methodology described here integrates a system of preparing in vitro
3D models embedded in a model extracellular matrix (ECM) scaffold of Type I collagen with fluorescently labeled probes uniformly distributed for position- and time-dependent microrheology measurements throughout the specimen. In vitro
tumors are plated and probed in parallel conditions using multiwell imaging plates. Drawing on established methods, videos of tracer probe movements are transformed via the Generalized Stokes Einstein Relation (GSER) to report the complex frequency-dependent viscoelastic shear modulus, G*(ω)
. Because this approach is imaging-based, mechanical characterization is also mapped onto large transmitted-light spatial fields to simultaneously report qualitative changes in 3D tumor size and phenotype. Representative results showing contrasting mechanical response in sub-regions associated with localized invasion-induced matrix degradation as well as system calibration, validation data are presented. Undesirable outcomes from common experimental errors and troubleshooting of these issues are also presented. The 96-well 3D culture plating format implemented in this protocol is conducive to correlation of microrheology measurements with therapeutic screening assays or molecular imaging to gain new insights into impact of treatments or biochemical stimuli on the mechanical microenvironment.
Bioengineering, Issue 88, viscoelasticity, mechanobiology, extracellular matrix (ECM), matrix remodeling, 3D tumor models, tumor microenvironment, stroma, matrix metalloprotease (MMP), epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT)
An Orthotopic Glioblastoma Mouse Model Maintaining Brain Parenchymal Physical Constraints and Suitable for Intravital Two-photon Microscopy
Institutions: Aix Marseille University, European Research Center for Medical Imaging, Campus de la Timone, KU Leuven Campus Gasthuisberg.
Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) is the most aggressive form of brain tumors with no curative treatments available to date.
Murine models of this pathology rely on the injection of a suspension of glioma cells into the brain parenchyma following incision of the dura-mater. Whereas the cells have to be injected superficially to be accessible to intravital two-photon microscopy, superficial injections fail to recapitulate the physiopathological conditions. Indeed, escaping through the injection tract most tumor cells reach the extra-dural space where they expand abnormally fast in absence of mechanical constraints from the parenchyma.
Our improvements consist not only in focally implanting a glioma spheroid rather than injecting a suspension of glioma cells in the superficial layers of the cerebral cortex but also in clogging the injection site by a cross-linked dextran gel hemi-bead that is glued to the surrounding parenchyma and sealed to dura-mater with cyanoacrylate. Altogether these measures enforce the physiological expansion and infiltration of the tumor cells inside the brain parenchyma. Craniotomy was finally closed with a glass window cemented to the skull to allow chronic imaging over weeks in absence of scar tissue development.
Taking advantage of fluorescent transgenic animals grafted with fluorescent tumor cells we have shown that the dynamics of interactions occurring between glioma cells, neurons (e.g.
Thy1-CFP mice) and vasculature (highlighted by an intravenous injection of a fluorescent dye) can be visualized by intravital two-photon microscopy during the progression of the disease.
The possibility to image a tumor at microscopic resolution in a minimally compromised cerebral environment represents an improvement of current GBM animal models which should benefit the field of neuro-oncology and drug testing.
Medicine, Issue 86, Glioblastoma multiforme, intravital two-photon imaging, animal model, chronic cranial window, brain tumors, neuro-oncology.
Optimization of High Grade Glioma Cell Culture from Surgical Specimens for Use in Clinically Relevant Animal Models and 3D Immunochemistry
Institutions: Henry Ford Hospital.
Glioblastomas, the most common and aggressive form of astrocytoma, are refractory to therapy, and molecularly heterogeneous. The ability to establish cell cultures that preserve the genomic profile of the parental tumors, for use in patient specific in vitro
and in vivo
models, has the potential to revolutionize the preclinical development of new treatments for glioblastoma tailored to the molecular characteristics of each tumor.
Starting with fresh high grade astrocytoma tumors dissociated into single cells, we use the neurosphere assay as an enrichment method for cells presenting cancer stem cell phenotype, including expression of neural stem cell markers, long term self-renewal in vitro
, and the ability to form orthotopic xenograft tumors. This method has been previously proposed, and is now in use by several investigators. Based on our experience of dissociating and culturing 125 glioblastoma specimens, we arrived at the detailed protocol we present here, suitable for routine neurosphere culturing of high grade astrocytomas and large scale expansion of tumorigenic cells for preclinical studies. We report on the efficiency of successful long term cultures using this protocol and suggest affordable alternatives for culturing dissociated glioblastoma cells that fail to grow as neurospheres. We also describe in detail a protocol for preserving the neurospheres 3D architecture for immunohistochemistry. Cell cultures enriched in CSCs, capable of generating orthotopic xenograft models that preserve the molecular signatures and heterogeneity of GBMs, are becoming increasingly popular for the study of the biology of GBMs and for the improved design of preclinical testing of potential therapies.
Medicine, Issue 83, Primary Cell Culture, animal models, Nervous System Diseases, Neoplasms, glioblastoma, neurosphere, surgical specimens, long-term self-renewal
Production of Large Numbers of Size-controlled Tumor Spheroids Using Microwell Plates
Institutions: University of Calgary.
Tumor spheroids are increasingly recognized as an important in vitro
model for the behavior of tumor cells in three dimensions. More physiologically relevant than conventional adherent-sheet cultures, they more accurately recapitulate the complexity and interactions present in real tumors. In order to harness this model to better assess tumor biology, or the efficacy of novel therapeutic agents, it is necessary to be able to generate spheroids reproducibly, in a controlled manner and in significant numbers.
The AggreWell system consists of a high-density array of pyramid-shaped microwells, into which a suspension of single cells is centrifuged. The numbers of cells clustering at the bottom of each microwell, and the number and ratio of distinct cell types involved depend only on the properties of the suspension introduced by the experimenter. Thus, we are able to generate tumor spheroids of arbitrary size and composition without needing to modify the underlying platform technology. The hundreds of microwells per square centimeter of culture surface area in turn ensure that extremely high production levels may be attained via a straightforward, nonlabor-intensive process. We therefore expect that this protocol will be broadly useful to researchers in the tumor spheroid field.
Bioengineering, Issue 81, tumor spheroid, size control, scalable, mixed cell types, microwell, forced aggregation, microtissue
Generation of Subcutaneous and Intrahepatic Human Hepatocellular Carcinoma Xenografts in Immunodeficient Mice
Institutions: University Health Network, University Health Network, University Health Network.
experimental models of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) that recapitulate the human disease provide a valuable platform for research into disease pathophysiology and for the preclinical evaluation of novel therapies. We present a variety of methods to generate subcutaneous or orthotopic human HCC xenografts in immunodeficient mice that could be utilized in a variety of research applications. With a focus on the use of primary tumor tissue from patients undergoing surgical resection as a starting point, we describe the preparation of cell suspensions or tumor fragments for xenografting. We describe specific techniques to xenograft these tissues i) subcutaneously; or ii) intrahepatically, either by direct implantation of tumor cells or fragments into the liver, or indirectly by injection of cells into the mouse spleen. We also describe the use of partial resection of the native mouse liver at the time of xenografting as a strategy to induce a state of active liver regeneration in the recipient mouse that may facilitate the intrahepatic engraftment of primary human tumor cells. The expected results of these techniques are illustrated. The protocols described have been validated using primary human HCC samples and xenografts, which typically perform less robustly than the well-established human HCC cell lines that are widely used and frequently cited in the literature. In comparison with cell lines, we discuss factors which may contribute to the relatively low chance of primary HCC engraftment in xenotransplantation models and comment on technical issues that may influence the kinetics of xenograft growth. We also suggest methods that should be applied to ensure that xenografts obtained accurately resemble parent HCC tissues.
Medicine, Issue 79, Liver Neoplasms, Hepatectomy, animal models, hepatocellular carcinoma, xenograft, cancer, liver, subcutaneous, intrahepatic, orthotopic, mouse, human, immunodeficient
Human Neuroendocrine Tumor Cell Lines as a Three-Dimensional Model for the Study of Human Neuroendocrine Tumor Therapy
Institutions: Raymond and Beverly Sackler Foundation, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, New Jersey.
Neuroendocrine tumors (NETs) are rare tumors, with an incidence of two per 100, 000 individuals per year, and they account for 0.5% of all human malignancies.1
Other than surgery for the minority of patients who present with localized disease, there is little or no survival benefit of systemic therapy. Therefore, there is a great need to better understand the biology of NETs, and in particular define new therapeutic targets for patients with nonresectable or metastatic neuroendocrine tumors. 3D cell culture is becoming a popular method for drug screening due to its relevance in modeling the in vivo
tumor tissue organization and microenvironment.2,3
The 3D multicellular spheroids could provide valuable information in a more timely and less expensive manner than directly proceeding from 2D cell culture experiments to animal (murine) models.
To facilitate the discovery of new therapeutics for NET patients, we have developed an in vitro
3D multicellular spheroids model using the human NET cell lines. The NET cells are plated in a non-adhesive agarose-coated 24-well plate and incubated under physiological conditions (5% CO2
, 37 °C) with a very slow agitation for 16-24 hr after plating. The cells form multicellular spheroids starting on the 3rd
day. The spheroids become more spherical by the 6th
day, at which point the drug treatments are initiated. The efficacy of the drug treatments on the NET spheroids is monitored based on the morphology, shape and size of the spheroids with a phase-contrast light microscope. The size of the spheroids is estimated automatically using a custom-developed MATLAB program based on an active contour algorithm. Further, we demonstrate a simple method to process the HistoGel embedding on these 3D spheroids, allowing the use of standard histological and immunohistochemical techniques.
This is the first report on generating 3D spheroids using NET cell lines to examine the effect of therapeutic drugs. We have also performed histology on these 3D spheroids, and displayed an example of a single drug's effect on growth and proliferation of the NET spheroids. Our results support that the NET spheroids are valuable for further studies of NET biology and drug development.
Cancer Biology, Issue 66, Medicine, Neuroscience, Cell Culture, Tissue Engineering, 3D model, multicellular spheroids, therapeutic drugs, neuroendocrine tumor cell lines, agarose overlay platform, paraffin embedding
Isolation of Mammary Epithelial Cells from Three-dimensional Mixed-cell Spheroid Co-culture
Institutions: Tufts Medical Center.
While enormous efforts have gone into identifying signaling pathways and molecules involved in normal and malignant cell behaviors1-2
, much of this work has been done using classical two-dimensional cell culture models, which allow for easy cell manipulation. It has become clear that intracellular signaling pathways are affected by extracellular forces, including dimensionality and cell surface tension3-4
. Multiple approaches have been taken to develop three-dimensional models that more accurately represent biologic tissue architecture3
. While these models incorporate multi-dimensionality and architectural stresses, study of the consequent effects on cells is less facile than in two-dimensional tissue culture due to the limitations of the models and the difficulty in extracting cells for subsequent analysis.
The important role of the microenvironment around tumors in tumorigenesis and tumor behavior is becoming increasingly recognized4
. Tumor stroma is composed of multiple cell types and extracellular molecules. During tumor development there are bidirectional signals between tumor cells and stromal cells5
. Although some factors participating in tumor-stroma co-evolution have been identified, there is still a need to develop simple techniques to systematically identify and study the full array of these signals6
. Fibroblasts are the most abundant cell type in normal or tumor-associated stromal tissues, and contribute to deposition and maintenance of basement membrane and paracrine growth factors7
Many groups have used three dimensional culture systems to study the role of fibroblasts on various cellular functions, including tumor response to therapies, recruitment of immune cells, signaling molecules, proliferation, apoptosis, angiogenesis, and invasion8-15
. We have optimized a simple method for assessing the effects of mammary fibroblasts on mammary epithelial cells using a commercially available extracellular matrix model to create three-dimensional cultures of mixed cell populations (co-cultures)16-22
. With continued co-culture the cells form spheroids with the fibroblasts clustering in the interior and the epithelial cells largely on the exterior of the spheroids and forming multi-cellular projections into the matrix. Manipulation of the fibroblasts that leads to altered epithelial cell invasiveness can be readily quantified by changes in numbers and length of epithelial projections23
. Furthermore, we have devised a method for isolating epithelial cells out of three-dimensional co-culture that facilitates analysis of the effects of fibroblast exposure on epithelial behavior. We have found that the effects of co-culture persist for weeks after epithelial cell isolation, permitting ample time to perform multiple assays. This method is adaptable to cells of varying malignant potential and requires no specialized equipment. This technique allows for rapid evaluation of in vitro cell models under multiple conditions, and the corresponding results can be compared to in vivo
animal tissue models as well as human tissue samples.
Molecular Biology, Issue 62, Tumor microenvironment, extracellular matrix, three-dimensional, co-culture, spheroid, mixed-cell, cell culture
Spheroid Assay to Measure TGF-β-induced Invasion
Institutions: Leiden University Medical Centre.
TGF-β has opposing roles in breast cancer progression by acting as a tumor suppressor in the initial phase, but stimulating invasion and metastasis at later stage1,2
. Moreover, TGF-β is frequently overexpressed in breast cancer and its expression correlates with poor prognosis and metastasis 3,4
. The mechanisms by which TGF-β induces invasion are not well understood.
TGF-β elicits its cellular responses via TGF-β type II (TβRII) and type I (TβRI) receptors. Upon TGF-β-induced heteromeric complex formation, TβRII phosphorylates the TβRI. The activated TβRI initiates its intracellular canonical signaling pathway by phosphorylating receptor Smads (R-Smads), i.e. Smad2 and Smad3. These activated R-Smads form heteromeric complexes with Smad4, which accumulate in the nucleus and regulate the transcription of target genes5
. In addition to the previously described Smad pathway, receptor activation results in activation of several other non-Smad signaling pathways, for example Mitogen Activated Protein Kinase (MAPK) pathways6
To study the role of TGF-β in different stages of breast cancer, we made use of the MCF10A cell system. This system consists of spontaneously immortalized MCF10A1 (M1) breast epithelial cells7
, the H-RAS transformed M1-derivative MCF10AneoT (M2), which produces premalignant lesions in mice8
, and the M2-derivative MCF10CA1a (M4), which was established from M2 xenografts and forms high grade carcinomas with the ability to metastasize to the lung9
. This MCF10A series offers the possibility to study the responses of cells with different grades of malignancy that are not biased by a different genetic background.
For the analysis of TGF-β-induced invasion, we generated homotypic MCF10A spheroid cell cultures embedded in a 3D collagen matrix in vitro
(Fig 1). Such models closely resemble human tumors in vivo
by establishing a gradient of oxygen and nutrients, resulting in active and invasive cells on the outside and quiescent or even necrotic cells in the inside of the spheroid10
. Spheroid based assays have also been shown to better recapitulate drug resistance than monolayer cultures11
. This MCF10 3D model system allowed us to investigate the impact of TGF-β signaling on the invasive properties of breast cells in different stages of malignancy.
Medicine, Issue 57, TGF-β, TGF, breast cancer, assay, invasion, collagen, spheroids, oncology
Microfluidic Device for Recreating a Tumor Microenvironment in Vitro
Institutions: University Of Massachusetts Amherst.
We have developed a microfluidic device that mimics the delivery and systemic clearance of drugs to heterogeneous three-dimensional tumor tissues in vitro. Nutrients delivered by vasculature fail to reach all parts of tumors, giving rise to heterogeneous microenvironments consisting of viable, quiescent and necrotic cell types. Many cancer drugs fail to effectively penetrate and treat all types of cells because of this heterogeneity. Monolayers of cancer cells do not mimic this heterogeneity, making it difficult to test cancer drugs with a suitable in vitro model. Our microfluidic devices were fabricated out of PDMS using soft lithography. Multicellular tumor spheroids, formed by the hanging drop method, were inserted and constrained into rectangular chambers on the device and maintained with continuous medium perfusion on one side. The rectangular shape of chambers on the device created linear gradients within tissue. Fluorescent stains were used to quantify the variability in apoptosis within tissue. Tumors on the device were treated with the fluorescent chemotherapeutic drug doxorubicin, time-lapse microscopy was used to monitor its diffusion into tissue, and the effective diffusion coefficient was estimated. The hanging drop method allowed quick formation of uniform spheroids from several cancer cell lines. The device enabled growth of spheroids for up to 3 days. Cells in proximity of flowing medium were minimally apoptotic and those far from the channel were more apoptotic, thereby accurately mimicking regions in tumors adjacent to blood vessels. The estimated value of the doxorubicin diffusion coefficient agreed with a previously reported value in human breast cancer. Because the penetration and retention of drugs in solid tumors affects their efficacy, we believe that this device is an important tool in understanding the behavior of drugs, and developing new cancer therapeutics.
Bioengineering, Issue 57, Microfluidic Device, Tumor Microenvironment, Hanging Drop Spheroids, Apoptosis, Drug Penetration