Researchers developing new therapies to treat cancer are constantly challenged by the fact that tumors are hard to grow outside the body in three dimensions. Drugs, it turns out, affect a tumor differently depending on its structure, and two dimensional cell cultures don’t offer a testing platform that sufficiently replicates a tumor’s native environment. The result is that too many live animals are used to screen various compounds for safety and efficacy, and the work turns out to be slow and tedious.
Now researchers at National University of Singapore have shown that they were able to grow 3D osteosarcoma tumors on a scaffold made of silk. Chemotherapy was tested on the in-vitro grown tumors and results showed that effective concentrations of the drugs were similar to those found affecting mice with the same cancer.
From National University of Singapore:
This is also the first time that a realistic 3-D tumour has been constructed in a laboratory using silk scaffolds in a pressurised bioreactor. Their 3-D bioreactor tumour model was able to express markers that indicate the ability of a tumour to initiate blood vessel growth at levels almost identical to that of the mouse model. The tumour constructs also responded to drugs that prevent blood vessel formation in a manner similar to that observed clinically.
The team has been developing the concept of the tumour microenvironment as an important determinant of tumour behaviour over the last 10 years.