bims-tuchim Biomed News
on Tumor-on-chip models
Issue of 2021‒03‒14
twenty-nine papers selected by
Philipp Albrecht
Friedrich Schiller University

  1. Front Immunol. 2021 ;12 643529
      Background: The aggressive biology and treatment refractory nature of pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) significantly limits long-term survival. Examining the tumor microenvironment (TME) of long-term survivors (LTS) of PDAC offers the potential of unveiling novel biological insights and therapeutic targets. Methods: We performed an integrated approach involving immunophenotyping, stromal scoring and histomorphological profiling of a cohort of 112 PDAC-cases, including 25 long-term survivors (LTSs, OS ≥ 60 months). Mutational frequencies were assessed using targeted next generation sequencing. Finally, we validated our findings in silico using an external cohort of microarray data from PDAC patients. Results: LTS cases exhibit a largely quiescent population of cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAFs). Immune profiling revealed key differences between LTS and NON-LTS cases in the intratumoral and stromal compartments. In both compartments, LTS cases exhibit a T cell inflamed profile with higher density of CD3+ T cells, CD4+ T cells, iNOS+ leukocytes and strikingly diminished numbers of CD68+ total macrophages, CD163+ (M2) macrophages and FOXP3+ Tregs. A large proportion of LTS cases exhibited tertiary lymphoid tissue (TLT) formation, which has been observed to be a positive prognostic marker in a number of tumor types. Using a Random-Forest variable selection approach, we identified the density of stromal iNOS+ cells and CD68+ cells as strong positive and negative prognostic variables, respectively. In an external cohort, computational cell-type deconvolution revealed a higher abundance of T cells, B lymphocytes and dendritic cells (DCs) in patients with long-term OS compared to short-term survivors. Thus, in silico profiling of long-term survivors in an external cohort, strongly corroborated the T cell-inflamed TME observed in our LTS group. Conclusions: Collectively, our findings highlight the prognostic importance of TME profiles in PDAC, underlining the crucial role of tumor associated macrophages (TAMs) and the potential interdependence between immunosuppressive TAMs and activated CAFs in pancreatic cancer. Additionally, our data has potential for precision medicine and patient stratification. Patients with a T cell inflamed TME might derive benefit from agonistic T cell antibodies (e.g., OX40 or CD137 agonists). Alternately, patients with activated CAFs and high infiltration of immunosuppressive TAMs are highly likely to exhibit therapeutic responses to macrophage targeted drugs (e.g., anti-CSF1R) and anti-CAF agents.
    Keywords:  PDAC–pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma; cancer associated fibroblast (CAF); long term survival; tumor associated macrophage (TAM); tumor microenvironment (TME)
  2. Cell Rep. 2021 Mar 09. pii: S2211-1247(21)00130-3. [Epub ahead of print]34(10): 108816
      Significant changes in cell stiffness, contractility, and adhesion, i.e., mechanotype, are observed during a variety of biological processes. Whether cell mechanics merely change as a side effect of or driver for biological processes is still unclear. Here, we sort genotypically similar metastatic cancer cells into strongly adherent (SA) versus weakly adherent (WA) phenotypes to study how contractility and adhesion differences alter the ability of cells to sense and respond to gradients in material stiffness. We observe that SA cells migrate up a stiffness gradient, or durotax, while WA cells largely ignore the gradient, i.e., adurotax. Biophysical modeling and experimental validation suggest that differences in cell migration and durotaxis between weakly and strongly adherent cells are driven by differences in intra-cellular actomyosin activity. These results provide a direct relationship between cell phenotype and durotaxis and suggest how, unlike other senescent cells, metastatic cancer cells navigate against stiffness gradients.
    Keywords:  acto-mysoin contractility; carcinoma; catch bonds; durotaxis; focal adhesions; metastasis
  3. Br J Radiol. 2021 Mar 08. 20201397
      The efficiency of radiotherapy treatment regimes varies from tumour to tumour and from patient to patient but it is generally highly influenced by the tumour microenvironment (TME). The TME can be described as a heterogeneous composition of biological, biophysical, biomechanical and biochemical milieus that influence the tumour survival and its' response to treatment. Preclinical research faces challenges in the replication of these in vivo milieus for predictable treatment response studies. 2D cell culture is a traditional, simplistic and cost-effective approach to culture cells in vitro, however, the nature of the system fails to recapitulate important features of the TME such as structure, cell-cell and cell-matrix interactions. At the same time, the traditional use of animals (Xenografts) in cancer research allows realistic in vivo architecture, however foreign physiology, limited heterogeneity and reduced tumour mutation rates impairs relevance to humans. Furthermore, animal research is very time consuming and costly. Tissue engineering is advancing as a promising biomimetic approach, producing 3D models that capture structural, biophysical, biochemical and biomechanical features, therefore, facilitating more realistic treatment response studies for further clinical application. However, currently, the application of 3D models for radiation response studies is an understudied area of research, especially for pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC), a cancer with a notoriously complex microenvironment. At the same time, specific novel and/or more enhanced radiotherapy tumour-targeting techniques such as MRI-guided radiotherapy and proton therapy are emerging to more effectively target pancreatic cancer cells. However, these emerging technologies may have different biological effectiveness as compared to established photon-based radiotherapy. For example, for MRI-guided radiotherapy, the novel use of static magnetic fields (SMF) during radiation delivery is understudied and not fully understood. Thus, reliable biomimetic platforms to test new radiation delivery strategies are required to more accurately predict in vivo responses. Here, we aim to collate current 3D models for radiation response studies of PDAC, identifying the state of the art and outlines knowledge gaps. Overall, this review paper highlights the need for further research on the use of 3D models for pre-clinical radiotherapy screening including (i) 3D (re)-modeling of the PDAC hypoxic TME to allow for late effects of ionising radiation (ii) the screening of novel radiotherapy approaches and their combinations as well as (iii) a universally accepted 3D-model image quantification method for evaluating TME components in situ that would facilitate accurate post-treatment(s) quantitative comparisons.
  4. Adv Funct Mater. 2020 Nov 25. pii: 2000545. [Epub ahead of print]30(48):
      Tumor progression relies heavily on the interaction between the neoplastic epithelial cells and their surrounding stromal partners. This cell cross-talk affects stromal development, and ultimately the heterogeneity impacts drug efflux and efficacy. To mimic this evolving paradigm, we have micro-engineered a three-dimensional (3D) vascularized pancreatic adenocarcinoma tissue in a tri-culture system composed of patient derived pancreatic organoids, primary human fibroblasts and endothelial cells on a perfusable InVADE platform situated in a 96-well plate. Uniquely, through synergistic engineering we combined the benefits of cellular fidelity of patient tumor derived organoids with the addressability of a plastic organ-on-a-chip platform. Validation of this platform included demonstrating the growth of pancreatic tumor organoids by monitoring the change in metabolic activity of the tissue. Investigation of tumor microenvironmental behavior highlighted the role of fibroblasts in symbiosis with patient organoid cells, resulting in a six-fold increase of collagen deposition and a corresponding increase in tissue stiffness in comparison to fibroblast free controls. The value of a perfusable vascular network was evident in drug screening, as perfusion of gemcitabine into a stiffened matrix did not show the dose-dependent effects on tumor viability as those under static conditions. These findings demonstrate the importance of studying the dynamic synergistic relationship between patient cells with stromal fibroblasts, in a 3D perfused vascular network, to accurately understand and recapitulate the tumor microenvironment.
    Keywords:  Desmoplasia; Tumor Microenvironment; Tumor Organoids; Vascularized
  5. Front Immunol. 2021 ;12 636238
      Immune checkpoint inhibition targeting T cells has shown tremendous promise in the treatment of many cancer types and are now standard therapies for patients. While standard therapies have focused on PD-1 and CTLA-4 blockade, additional immune checkpoints have shown promise in promoting anti-tumor immunity. PSGL-1, primarily known for its role in cellular migration, has also been shown to function as a negative regulator of CD4+ T cells in numerous disease settings including cancer. PSGL-1 is highly expressed on T cells and can engage numerous ligands that impact signaling pathways, which may modulate CD4+ T cell differentiation and function. PSGL-1 engagement in the tumor microenvironment may promote CD4+ T cell exhaustion pathways that favor tumor growth. Here we highlight that blocking the PSGL-1 pathway on CD4+ T cells may represent a new cancer therapy approach to eradicate tumors.
    Keywords:  CD4+ T cells; PSGL-1; anti-tumor immunity; cancer immunology; immune checkpoints
  6. Front Immunol. 2020 ;11 631713
      Immunotherapeutic approaches have revolutionized the treatment of several diseases such as cancer. The main goal of immunotherapy for cancer is to modulate the anti-tumor immune responses by favoring the recognition and destruction of tumor cells. Recently, a better understanding of the suppressive effect of the tumor microenvironment (TME) on immune cells, indicates that restoring the suppressive effect of the TME is crucial for an efficient immunotherapy. Natural killer (NK) cells and dendritic cells (DCs) are cell types that are currently administered to cancer patients. NK cells are used because of their ability to kill tumor cells directly via cytotoxic granzymes. DCs are employed to enhance anti-tumor T cell responses based on their ability to present antigens and induce tumor-antigen specific CD8+ T cell responses. In preclinical models, a particular DC subset, conventional type 1 DCs (cDC1s) is shown to be specialized in cross-presenting extracellular antigens to CD8+ T cells. This feature makes them a promising DC subset for cancer treatment. Within the TME, cDC1s show a bidirectional cross-talk with NK cells, resulting in a higher cDC1 recruitment, differentiation, and maturation as well as activation and stimulation of NK cells. Consequently, the presence of cDC1s and NK cells within the TME might be of utmost importance for the success of immunotherapy. In this review, we discuss the function of cDC1s and NK cells, their bidirectional cross-talk and potential strategies that could improve cancer immunotherapy.
    Keywords:  conventional type 1 DCs; cross-talk; immunotherapy; natural killer cells; tumor microenvironment
  7. Small. 2021 Mar 09. e2007425
      Despite considerable efforts in modeling liver disease in vitro, it remains difficult to recapitulate the pathogenesis of the advanced phases of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) with inflammation and fibrosis. Here, a liver-on-a-chip platform with bioengineered multicellular liver microtissues is developed, composed of four major types of liver cells (hepatocytes, endothelial cells, Kupffer cells, and stellate cells) to implement a human hepatic fibrosis model driven by NAFLD: i) lipid accumulation in hepatocytes (steatosis), ii) neovascularization by endothelial cells, iii) inflammation by activated Kupffer cells (steatohepatitis), and iv) extracellular matrix deposition by activated stellate cells (fibrosis). In this model, the presence of stellate cells in the liver-on-a-chip model with fat supplementation showed elevated inflammatory responses and fibrosis marker up-regulation. Compared to transforming growth factor-beta-induced hepatic fibrosis models, this model includes the native pathological and chronological steps of NAFLD which shows i) higher fibrotic phenotypes, ii) increased expression of fibrosis markers, and iii) efficient drug transport and metabolism. Taken together, the proposed platform will enable a better understanding of the mechanisms underlying fibrosis progression in NAFLD as well as the identification of new drugs for the different stages of NAFLD.
    Keywords:  co-culture; liver fibrosis; liver microtissues; non-alcoholic fatty liver disease; non-alcoholic steatohepatitis
  8. Adv Drug Deliv Rev. 2021 Mar 08. pii: S0169-409X(21)00058-2. [Epub ahead of print]
      A dense desmoplastic stroma formed by abundant extracellular matrix and stromal cells, including cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAFs) and immune cells, is a feature of pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC), one of the most lethal cancer types. As the dominant cellular component of the PDAC stroma, CAFs orchestrate intensive and biologically diverse crosstalk with pancreatic cancer cells and immune cells and contribute to a unique PDAC tumor microenvironment promoting cancer proliferation, metastasis, and resistance against both chemo- and immunotherapies. Therefore, CAFs and CAF-related mechanisms have emerged as promising targets for PDAC therapy. However, several clinical setbacks and accumulating knowledge of the PDAC stroma have revealed the heterogeneity and multifaceted biological roles of CAFs, and concerns regarding "what to deliver" and "how to deliver" have arisen when designing CAF-targeted drug delivery systems to specifically inhibit tumor-supporting CAFs without impairing tumor-restricting CAFs. In this review, we will discuss the complexity of CAFs in the PDAC stroma as well as the potential opportunities and common misconceptions regarding drug delivery efforts targeting PDAC CAFs.
    Keywords:  Pancreatic ductal carcinoma; cancer-associated fibroblasts; drug delivery; microenvironment; pancreatic stellate cells; tumor
  9. Front Immunol. 2020 ;11 626812
      Cells of the innate immune system are a major component of the tumor microenvironment. They play complex and multifaceted roles in the regulation of cancer initiation, growth, metastasis and responses to therapeutics. Innate immune cells like neutrophils and macrophages are recruited to cancerous tissues by chemotactic molecules released by cancer cells and cancer-associated stromal cells. Once they reach the tumor, they can be instructed by a network of proteins, nucleic acids and metabolites to exert protumoral or antitumoral functions. Altered iron metabolism is a feature of cancer. Epidemiological studies suggest that increased presence of iron and/or iron binding proteins is associated with increased risks of cancer development. It has been shown that iron metabolism is involved in shaping the immune landscapes in inflammatory/infectious diseases and cancer-associated inflammation. In this article, we will dissect the contribution of macrophages and neutrophils to dysregulated iron metabolism in malignant cells and its impact on cancer growth and metastasis. The mechanisms involved in regulating the actions of macrophages and neutrophils will also be discussed. Moreover, we will examine the effects of iron metabolism on the phenotypes of innate immune cells. Both iron chelating and overloading agents are being explored in cancer treatment. This review highlights alternative strategies for management of iron content in cancer cells by targeting the iron donation and modulation properties of macrophages and neutrophils in the tumor microenvironment.
    Keywords:  cancer; iron; macrophage; metastasis; neutrophils
  10. Front Immunol. 2021 ;12 610042
      Adoptive cell therapy (ACT) using autologous tumor infiltrating lymphocytes (TIL) achieves durable clinical benefit for patients from whom these cells can be derived in advanced metastatic melanoma but is limited in most solid tumors as a result of immune escape and exclusion. A tumor microenvironment (TME) priming strategy to improve the quantity and quality of TIL represents an important tactic to explore. Oncolytic viruses expressing immune stimulatory cytokines induce a potent inflammatory response that may enhance infiltration and activation of T cells. In this study, we examined the ability of an attenuated oncolytic vaccinia virus expressing IL15/IL15Rα (vvDD-IL15/Rα) to enhance recovery of lavage T cells in peritoneal carcinomatosis (PC). We found that intraperitoneal (IP) vvDD-IL15/Rα treatment of animals bearing PC resulted in a significant increase in cytotoxic function and memory formation in CD8+ T cells in peritoneal fluid. Using tetramers for vaccinia virus B8R antigen and tumor rejection antigen p15E, we found that the expanded population of peritoneal CD8+ T cells are specific for vaccinia or tumor with increased tumor-specificity over time, reinforced with viral clearance. Application of these vvDD-IL15/Rα induced CD8+ T cells in ACT of a lethal model of PC significantly increased survival. In addition, we found in patients with peritoneal metastases from various primary solid tumors that peritoneal T cells could be recovered but were exhausted with infrequent tumor-reactivity. If clinically translatable, vvDD-IL15/Rα in vivo priming would greatly expand the number of patients with advanced metastatic cancers responsive to T cell therapy.
    Keywords:  CD8+ T cells; IL-15; adoptive cell therapy (ACT); oncolytic virus; solid tumor
  11. Talanta. 2021 May 01. pii: S0039-9140(21)00018-7. [Epub ahead of print]226 122097
      Standard two/three dimensional (2D/3D)-cell culture platforms have facilitated the understanding of the communications between various cell types and their microenvironments. However, they are still limited in recapitulating the complex functionalities in vivo, such as tissue formation, tissue-tissue interface, and mechanical/biochemical microenvironments of tissues and organs. Intestine-on-a-chip platforms offer a new way to mimic intestinal behaviors and functionalities by constructing in vitro intestinal models in microfluidic devices. This review summarizes the advances and limitations of the state-of-the-art 2D/3D-cell culture platforms, animal models, intestine chips, and the combined multi-organ chips related with intestines. Their applications to studying intestinal functions, drug testing, and disease modeling are introduced. Different intestinal cell sources are compared in terms of gene expression abilities and the recapitulated intestinal morphologies. Among these cells, cells isolated form human intestinal tissues and derived from pluripotent stem cells appear to be more suitable for in vitro reconstruction of intestinal organs. Key challenges of current intestine-on-a-chip platforms and future directions are also discussed.
    Keywords:  In vitro intestinal models; Intestine-on-a-chip; Multiple organs-on-a-chip; Two/three dimensional (2D/3D)-cell culture platform
  12. Front Bioeng Biotechnol. 2021 ;9 574035
      2D cell cultures are commonly used to rapidly evaluate the therapeutic potential of various treatments on living cells. However, the effects of the extracellular matrix (ECM) including the 3D arrangement of cells and the complex physiology of native environment are missing, which makes these models far from in vivo conditions. 3D cell models have emerged in preclinical studies to simulate the impact of the ECM and partially bridge the gap between monolayer cultures and in vivo tissues. To date, the difficulty to handle the existing 3D models, the cost of their production and their poor reproducibility have hindered their use. Here, we present a reproducible and commercially available "3D cell collagen-based model" (3D-CCM) that allows to study the influence of the matrix on nanoagent uptake and radiation effects. The cell density in these samples is homogeneous. The oxygen concentration in the 3D-CCM is tunable, which opens the opportunity to investigate hypoxic effects. In addition, thanks to the intrinsic properties of the collagen, the second harmonic imaging microscopy may be used to probe the whole volume and visualize living cells in real-time. Thus, the architecture and composition of 3D-CCMs as well as the impact of various therapeutic strategies on cells embedded in the ECM is observed directly. Moreover, the disaggregation of the collagen matrix allows recovering of cells without damaging them. It is a major advantage that makes possible single cell analysis and quantification of treatment effects using clonogenic assay. In this work, 3D-CCMs were used to evaluate the correlative efficacies of nanodrug exposure and medical radiation on cells contained in a tumor like sample. A comparison with monolayer cell cultures was performed showing the advantageous outcome and the higher potential of 3D-CCMs. This cheap and easy to handle approach is more ethical than in vivo experiments, thus, giving a fast evaluation of cellular responses to various treatments.
    Keywords:   SHG; 3D cell model; collagen; hydrogel; internalization; nanoagents; radioenhancement; radiosensitization
  13. Immunity. 2021 Mar 06. pii: S1074-7613(21)00084-4. [Epub ahead of print]
      Memory T cells are thought to rely on oxidative phosphorylation and short-lived effector T cells on glycolysis. Here, we investigated how T cells arrive at these states during an immune response. To understand the metabolic state of rare, early-activated T cells, we adapted mass cytometry to quantify metabolic regulators at single-cell resolution in parallel with cell signaling, proliferation, and effector function. We interrogated CD8+ T cell activation in vitro and in response to Listeria monocytogenes infection in vivo. This approach revealed a distinct metabolic state in early-activated T cells characterized by maximal expression of glycolytic and oxidative metabolic proteins. Cells in this transient state were most abundant 5 days post-infection before rapidly decreasing metabolic protein expression. Analogous findings were observed in chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cells interrogated longitudinally in advanced lymphoma patients. Our study demonstrates the utility of single-cell metabolic analysis by mass cytometry to identify metabolic adaptations of immune cell populations in vivo and provides a resource for investigations of metabolic regulation of immune responses across a variety of applications.
    Keywords:  CD8 T cell; T cell activation; immunometabolism; mass cytometry
  14. Exp Cell Res. 2021 Mar 04. pii: S0014-4827(21)00058-6. [Epub ahead of print]401(2): 112527
      Metastasis is the leading cause of mortality in cancer patients. To migrate to distant sites, cancer cells would need to adapt their behaviour in response to different tissue environments. Thus, it is essential to study this process in models that can closely replicate the tumour microenvironment. Here, we evaluate the use of organotypic liver and brain slices to study cancer metastasis. Morphological and viability parameters of the slices were monitored daily over 3 days in culture to assess their stability as a realistic 3D tissue platform for in vitro metastatic assays. Using these slices, we evaluated the invasion of MDA-MB-231 breast cancer cells and of a subpopulation that was selected for increased motility. We show that the more aggressive invasion of the selected cells likely resulted not only from their lower stiffness, but also from their lower adhesion to the surrounding tissue. Different invasion patterns in the brain and liver slices were observed for both subpopulations. Cells migrated faster in the brain slices (with an amoeboid-like mode) compared to in the liver slices (where they migrated with mesenchymal or collective migration-like modes). Inhibition of the Ras/MAPK/ERK pathway increased cell stiffness and adhesion forces, which resulted in reduced invasiveness. These results illustrate the potential for organotypic tissue slices to more closely mimic in vivo conditions during cancer cell metastasis than most in vitro models.
    Keywords:  3D microenvironment; Adhesion; Cell mechanics; Metastasis; Migration; Stiffness
  15. Dev Cell. 2021 Mar 04. pii: S1534-5807(21)00157-X. [Epub ahead of print]
      We describe a cellular contractile mechanism employed by fibroblasts and mesenchymal cancer cells to migrate in 3D collagen gels. During 3D spreading, fibroblasts strongly deform the matrix. They protrude, polarize, and initiate migration in the direction of highest extracellular matrix (ECM) deformation (prestrain). This prestrain is maintained through anterior cellular contractions behind the leading edge prior to protrusion, coordinating a distinct 3D migration cycle that varies between cell types. Myosin IIA is required for strain polarization, generating anterior contractions, and maintaining prestrain for efficient directional cell migration. Local matrix severing disrupts the matrix prestrain, suppressing directional protrusion. We show that epithelial cancer and endothelial cells rarely demonstrate the sustained prestrain or anterior contractions. We propose that mesenchymal cells sense ECM stiffness in 3D and generate their own matrix prestrain. This requires myosin IIA to generate polarized periodic anterior contractions for maintaining a 3D migration cycle.
    Keywords:  3D microenvironment; cancer; cell migration; contractility; fibroblasts; integrins; mesenchymal; myosin II
  16. Nat Protoc. 2021 Mar 10.
      Organoid technology has revolutionized the study of human organ development, disease and therapy response tailored to the individual. Although detailed protocols are available for the generation and long-term propagation of human organoids from various organs, such methods are lacking for breast tissue. Here we provide an optimized, highly versatile protocol for long-term culture of organoids derived from either normal human breast tissues or breast cancer (BC) tissues, as well as culturing conditions for a panel of 45 biobanked samples, including BC organoids covering all major disease subtypes (triple-negative, estrogen receptor-positive/progesterone receptor-positive and human epidermal growth receptor 2-positive). Additionally, we provide methods for genetic manipulation by Lipofectamine 2000, electroporation or lentivirus and subsequent organoid selection and clonal culture. Finally, we introduce an optimized method for orthotopic organoid transplantation in mice, which includes injection of organoids and estrogen pellets without the need for surgery. Organoid derivation from tissue fragments until the first split takes 7-21 d; generation of genetically manipulated clonal organoid cultures takes 14-21 d; and organoid expansion for xenotransplantation takes >4 weeks.
  17. Cell Metab. 2021 Mar 03. pii: S1550-4131(21)00071-1. [Epub ahead of print]
      Understanding the mechanisms underlying how T cells become dysfunctional in a tumor microenvironment (TME) will greatly benefit cancer immunotherapy. We found that increased CD36 expression in tumor-infiltrating CD8+ T cells, which was induced by TME cholesterol, was associated with tumor progression and poor survival in human and murine cancers. Genetic ablation of Cd36 in effector CD8+ T cells exhibited increased cytotoxic cytokine production and enhanced tumor eradication. CD36 mediated uptake of fatty acids by tumor-infiltrating CD8+ T cells in TME, induced lipid peroxidation and ferroptosis, and led to reduced cytotoxic cytokine production and impaired antitumor ability. Blocking CD36 or inhibiting ferroptosis in CD8+ T cells effectively restored their antitumor activity and, more importantly, possessed greater antitumor efficacy in combination with anti-PD-1 antibodies. This study reveals a new mechanism of CD36 regulating the function of CD8+ effector T cells and therapeutic potential of targeting CD36 or inhibiting ferroptosis to restore T cell function.
    Keywords:  CD36; CD8(+) T cells; ferroptosis; lipid peroxidation
  18. Methods Mol Biol. 2021 ;2269 49-61
      In solid tumors, mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are recognized to establish complex intercommunication networks with cancer cells and to significantly influence their invasion and metastasis potential. Such bidirectional interplay occurs between both tissue resident/tumor-associated MSCs (TA-MSCs) and also tumor infiltrating MSCs (TM-MSCs) that migrate from distant sites such as the bone marrow. Interestingly, malignant cells interactions with MSCs in the tumor microenvironment extends beyond conventional exchanges of signaling factors and extracellular vesicles, including unconventional direct exchanges of intracellular components, or cancer cells cannibalism of MSCs. In the context of 3D in vitro tumor models, cell tracking assays making use of cell-labeling probes such as membrane penetrating dyes, can be leveraged to shed light on these events, and allow researchers to analyze overtime cell-to-cell spatial distribution, fusion, internal organization, and changes in co-cultured populations ratios. Herein, we describe a high-throughput compatible method through which MSCs positioning and permanence within in vitro 3D multicellular tumor spheroid models (3D-MCTS) can be tracked overtime. Although we have focused on the interactions of human bone marrow-derived MSCs (hBM-MSCs) within heterotypic lung cancer A549 3D-MCTS, these procedures can be implemented for other 3D tumor spheroid models and types of cells, taking into consideration that optimization steps are undertaken.
    Keywords:  3D Multicellular Tumor Spheroids; Bioimaging; Cell labeling; Cell tracking; Tumor-associated/infiltrating mesenchymal stem cells
  19. Adv Funct Mater. 2020 Nov 25. pii: 1910650. [Epub ahead of print]30(48):
      Obesity increases the risk and worsens the prognosis for breast cancer due, in part, to altered adipose stromal cell (ASC) behavior. Whether ASCs from obese individuals increase migration of breast cancer cells relative to their lean counterparts, however, remains unclear. To test this connection, multicellular spheroids composed of MCF10A-derived tumor cell lines of varying malignant potential and lean or obese ASCs were embedded into collagen scaffolds mimicking the elastic moduli of interstitial breast adipose tissue. Confocal image analysis suggests that tumor cells alone migrate insignificantly under these conditions. However, direct cell-cell contact with either lean or obese ASCs enables them to migrate collectively, whereby obese ASCs activate tumor cell migration more effectively than their lean counterparts. Time-resolved optical coherence tomography (OCT) imaging suggests that obese ASCs facilitate tumor cell migration by mediating contraction of local collagen fibers. Matrix metalloproteinase (MMP)-dependent proteolytic activity significantly contributes to ASC-mediated tumor cell invasion and collagen deformation. However, ASC contractility is also important, as co-inhibition of both MMPs and contractility is necessary to completely abrogate ASC-mediated tumor cell migration. These findings imply that obesity-mediated changes of ASC phenotype may impact tumor cell migration and invasion with potential implications for breast cancer malignancy in obese patients.
    Keywords:  ECM remodeling; OCT; collagen; obesity; tumor invasion
  20. Sci Adv. 2021 Mar;pii: eabe9446. [Epub ahead of print]7(11):
      Here, we present an approach to model and adapt the mechanical regulation of morphogenesis that uses contractile cells as sculptors of engineered tissue anisotropy in vitro. Our method uses heterobifunctional cross-linkers to create mechanical boundary constraints that guide surface-directed sculpting of cell-laden extracellular matrix hydrogel constructs. Using this approach, we engineered linearly aligned tissues with structural and mechanical anisotropy. A multiscale in silico model of the sculpting process was developed to reveal that cell contractility increases as a function of principal stress polarization in anisotropic tissues. We also show that the anisotropic biophysical microenvironment of linearly aligned tissues potentiates soluble factor-mediated tenogenic and myogenic differentiation of mesenchymal stem cells. The application of our method is demonstrated by (i) skeletal muscle arrays to screen therapeutic modulators of acute oxidative injury and (ii) a 3D microphysiological model of lung cancer cachexia to study inflammatory and oxidative muscle injury induced by tumor-derived signals.
  21. Leuk Lymphoma. 2021 Mar 08. 1-18
      Chimeric antigen receptor T (CART) cell immunotherapy has yielded significant clinical success in treating certain hematological malignancies. However, despite high initial response rates, most patients eventually relapse. Resistance to CART cell therapy can stem from tumor cell mutations, T cell defects, and tumor microenvironment (TME) immunosuppression. Tumor cells can downregulate target antigen expression to evade CART cell detection or mutate death receptor pathways to resist CART cell cytotoxicity. Patient T cells can be intrinsically defective, and CART cells often undergo exhaustion. The TME is abundant with immunosuppressive cells and factors which contribute to suboptimal CART cell activity. Collectively, issues originating in tumor cells, T cells, and the TME present significant hurdles to long-term remission after CART cell therapy. Various strategies to combat CART cell resistance have shown promise in preclinical studies and early clinical trials and are crucial to achieving durable responses.
    Keywords:  CART; drug resistance; mechanism; treatment
  22. Eur J Immunol. 2021 Mar 07.
      Studies in murine models show that subthreshold T cell receptor (TCR) interactions with self-peptide are required for thymic development and peripheral survival of naïve T cells. Recently, differences in the strength of tonic TCR interactions with self-peptide, as read-out by cell surface levels of CD5, were associated with distinct effector potentials among sorted populations of T cells in mice. However, whether CD5 can also be used to parse functional heterogeneity among human T cells is less clear. Our study demonstrates that CD5 levels correlate with TCR signal strength in human naïve CD4+ T cells. Further, we describe a relationship between CD5 levels on naïve human CD4+ T cells and binding affinity to foreign peptide, in addition to a predominance of CD5hi T cells in the memory compartment. Differences in gene expression and biases in cytokine production potential between CD5lo and CD5hi naïve human CD4+ T cells are consistent with observations in mice. Together, these data validate the use of CD5 surface levels as a marker of heterogeneity among human naïve CD4+ T cells with important implications for the identification of functionally biased T cell populations that can be exploited to improve the efficacy of adoptive cell therapies. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
    Keywords:  CD4+ T cells; CD5; Human T cells; cytokines; thymus
  23. Lab Chip. 2021 Mar 10.
      Integrated valve microfluidics has an unparalleled capability to automate rapid delivery of fluids at the nanoliter scale for high-throughput biological experimentation. However, multilayer soft lithography, which is used to fabricate valve-microfluidics, produces devices with a minimum thickness of around five millimeters. This form-factor limitation prevents the use of such devices in experiments with limited sample thickness tolerance such as 4-pi microscopy, stimulated Raman scattering microscopy, and many forms of optical or magnetic tweezer applications. We present a new generation of integrated valve microfluidic devices that are less than 300 μm thick, including the cover-glass substrate, that resolves the thickness limitation. This "thin-chip" was fabricated through a novel soft-lithography technique that produces on-chip micro-valves with the same functionality and reliability of traditional thick valve-microfluidic devices despite the orders of magnitude reduction in thickness. We demonstrated the advantage of using our thin-chip over traditional thick devices to automate fluid control while imaging on a high-resolution inverted microscope. First, we demonstrate that the thin-chip provides an improved signal to noise when imaging single cells with two-color stimulated Raman scattering (SRS). We then demonstrated how the thin-chip can be used to simultaneously perform on-chip magnetic manipulation of beads and fluorescent imaging. This study reveals the potential of our thin-chip in high-resolution imaging, sorting, and bead capture-based single-cell multi-omics applications.
  24. Methods Mol Biol. 2021 ;2265 81-89
      Cancer cells have deregulated metabolism that can contribute to the unique metabolic makeup of the tumor microenvironment. This can be variable between patients, and it is important to understand these differences since they potentially can affect therapy response. Here we discuss a method of processing and assaying metabolism from direct ex vivo murine and human tumor samples using seahorse extracellular flux analysis. This provides real-time profiling of oxidative versus glycolytic metabolism and can help infer the metabolic status of the tumor microenvironment.
    Keywords:  Extracellular flux; Glycolysis; Metabolism; Oxidative phosphorylation; Seahorse
  25. Methods Mol Biol. 2021 Mar 11.
      Development of central nervous system (CNS) therapeutics and their brain delivery is impeded by the presence of the blood-brain barrier (BBB). In vitro BBB models, in particular human in vitro BBB models, are critical tools for CNS drug research and development. However, the availability of primary human microvascular endothelial cells is very limited for in vitro modeling. Advances in human induced pluripotent stem cell (hiPSC) technologies provide reproducible human cell resources for scientific research, regenerative medicine, and in vitro modeling. In particular, the differentiation of hiPSC into brain endothelial cells provides scalable, renewable and unlimited cells for in vitro BBB modeling that enables rapid screening of CNS drugs in terms of their BBB permeability. The following protocols provide a general guideline for hiPSC culture, differentiation of hiPSC into endothelial cells (hiPSC-ECs), generation of rat primary astrocytes, and establishment of a two-chamber co-culture in vitro BBB model.
    Keywords:  Blood-brain barrier (BBB); Cell differentiation; Endothelial cells (ECs); Human induced pluripotent stem cell (hiPSC); In vitro BBB modeling; Primary rat astrocytes
  26. Methods Mol Biol. 2021 ;2269 3-23
      Over recent years, the role of distinct mesenchymal stem cell populations in cancer progression has become increasingly evident. In this regard, developing in vitro preclinical tumor models capable of portraying tumor-associated mesenchymal stem cells (TA-MSCs) interactions with the tumor microenvironment (TME), cellular and extracellular components, would allow to improve the predictive potential of these platforms and expedite preclinical drug screening. Although recent studies successfully developed in vitro tumor models in which the biomolecular and cellular behaviors of TA-MSCs were recapitulated in the context of their interactions with specific TME components, no consensus has yet been reached regarding distinct TA-MSCs influence in the evolution of solid tumors. The paradoxical observations regarding the roles of MSCs on in vitro tumor models can in part be associated to a lack of standardization in how MSCs integration is performed. Herein, we summarize some of the main parameters linked to phenotypic variations established upon MSCs inclusion and interaction within in vitro tumor models. A critical overview of recent studies and how standardization of key parameters could improve the reproducibility and predictability of current preclinical validation models containing MSCs is also provided.
    Keywords:  In vitro tumor models; MSCs standardization; Therapeutics screening; Tumor microenvironment; Tumor-associated mesenchymal stem cells
  27. Sci Rep. 2021 Mar 10. 11(1): 5535
      Lung cancer rates are rising globally and non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) has a five year survival rate of only 24%. Unfortunately, the development of drugs to treat cancer is severely hampered by the inefficiency of translating pre-clinical studies into clinical benefit. Thus, we sought to apply a tumor microenvironment system (TMES) to NSCLC. Using microvascular endothelial cells, lung cancer derived fibroblasts, and NSCLC tumor cells in the presence of in vivo tumor-derived hemodynamic flow and transport, we demonstrate that the TMES generates an in-vivo like biological state and predicts drug response to EGFR inhibitors. Transcriptomic and proteomic profiling indicate that the TMES recapitulates the in vivo and patient molecular biological state providing a mechanistic rationale for the predictive nature of the TMES. This work further validates the TMES for modeling patient tumor biology and drug response indicating utility of the TMES as a predictive tool for drug discovery and development and potential for use as a system for patient avatars.
  28. Small. 2021 Mar 11. e2006009
      For decades, several attempts have been made to obtain a mimetic model for the study of metastasis, the reason of most of deaths caused by cancer, in order to solve the unknown phenomena surrounding this disease. To better understand this cellular dissemination process, more realistic models are needed that are capable of faithfully recreating the entire and essential tumor microenvironment (TME). Thus, new tools known as tumor-on-a-chip and metastasis-on-a-chip have been recently proposed. These tools incorporate microfluidic systems and small culture chambers where TME can be faithfully modeled thanks to 3D bioprinting. In this work, a literature review has been developed about the different phases of metastasis, the remaining unknowns and the use of new models to study this disease. The aim is to provide a global vision of the current panorama and the great potential that these systems have for in vitro translational research on the molecular basis of the pathology. In addition, these models will allow progress toward a personalized medicine, generating chips from patient samples that mimic the original tumor and the metastatic process to perform a precise pharmacological screening by establishing the most appropriate treatment protocol.
    Keywords:  3D bioprinting; cancer; metastasis; metastasis-on-a-chip; tumor-on-a-chip
  29. Adv Funct Mater. 2020 Nov 25. pii: 2002444. [Epub ahead of print]30(48):
      Drug discovery and efficacy in cancer treatments are limited by the inability of pre-clinical models to predict successful outcomes in humans. Limitations remain partly due to their lack of a physiologic tumor microenvironment (TME), which plays a considerable role in drug delivery and tumor response to therapy. Chemotherapeutics and immunotherapies rely on transport through the vasculature, via the smallest capillaries and stroma to the tumor, where passive and active transport processes are at play. Here, a 3D vascularized tumor on-chip is used to examine drug delivery in a relevant TME within a large bed of perfusable vasculature. This system demonstrates highly localized pathophysiological effects of two tumor spheroids (Skov3 and A549) which cause significant changes in vessel density and barrier function. Paclitaxel (Taxol) uptake is examined through diffusivity measurements, functional efflux assays and accumulation of the fluorescent-conjugated drug within the TME. Due to vascular and stromal contributions, differences in the response of vascularized tumors to Taxol (shrinkage and CD44 expression) are apparent compared with simpler models. This model specifically allows for examination of spatially resolved tumor-associated endothelial dysfunction, likely improving the representation of in vivo drug distribution, and has potential for development into a more predictable model of drug delivery.
    Keywords:  P-gp; drug transport; engineered vessels; multi-drug resistance; vascularized tumor