bims-tuchim Biomed News
on Tumor-on-chip models
Issue of 2021‒05‒02
seventeen papers selected by
Philipp Albrecht
Friedrich Schiller University

  1. Adv Drug Deliv Rev. 2021 Apr 22. pii: S0169-409X(21)00146-0. [Epub ahead of print]
      Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) is an extremely aggressive type of cancer with an overall survival rate of less than 7-8%, emphasizing the need for novel effective therapeutics against PDAC. However only a fraction of therapeutics which seemed promising in the laboratory environment will eventually reach the clinic. One of the main reasons behind this low success rate is the complex tumor microenvironment (TME) of PDAC, a highly fibrotic and dense stroma surrounding tumor cells, which supports tumor progression as well as increases the resistance against the treatment. In particular, the growing understanding of the PDAC TME points out a different challenge in the development of efficient therapeutics - a lack of biologically relevant in vitro and in vivo models that resemble the complexity and heterogeneity of PDAC observed in patients. The purpose and scope of this review is to provide an overview of the recent developments in different in vitro and in vivo models, which aim to recapitulate the complexity of PDAC in a laboratory environment, as well to describe how 3D in vitro models can be included into drug development pipelines that are already including sophisticated in vivo models. Hereby a special focus will be given on the complexity of in vivo models and the challenges in vitro models face to reach the same levels of complexity in a controllable manner. First, a brief introduction of novel developments in two dimensional (2D) models and ex vivo models is provided. Next, recent developments in the development of three dimensional (3D) in vitro models are described ranging from spheroids, organoids, scaffold models, bioprinted models to organ-on-chip models including a discussion on advantages and limitations for each model. Furthermore, we will provide a detailed overview on the current PDAC in vivo models including chemically-induced models, syngeneic and xenogeneic models, highlighting hetero- and orthotopic, patient-derived tissues (PDX) models, and genetically engineered mouse models. Finally, we will provide a discussion on overall limitations of both, in vitro and in vivo models, and discuss necessary steps to overcome these limitations to reach an efficient drug development pipeline, as well as discuss possibilities to include novel in silico models in the process.
    Keywords:  Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma; bioprinting; genetically engineered mouse models; tumor microenvironment; tumor-on-chip
  2. Front Immunol. 2021 ;12 654877
      Although cancer immunotherapy has resulted in unpreceded survival benefits to subsets of oncology patients, accumulating evidence from preclinical animal models suggests that the immunosuppressive tumor microenvironment remains a detrimental factor limiting benefit for many patient subgroups. Recent efforts on lymphocyte-mediated immunotherapies are primarily focused on eliminating cancer foci at primary and metastatic sites, but few studies have investigated the impact of these therapies on the highly complex process of cancer cell dissemination. The metastatic cascade involves the directional streaming of invasive/migratory tumor cells toward specialized blood vessel intravasation gateways, called TMEM doorways, to the peripheral circulation. Importantly, this process occurs under the auspices of a specialized tumor microenvironment, herewith referred to as "Dissemination Trajectory", which is supported by an ample array of tumor-associated macrophages (TAMs), skewed towards an M2-like polarization spectrum, and which is also vital for providing microenvironmental cues for cancer cell invasion, migration and stemness. Based on pre-existing evidence from preclinical animal models, this article outlines the hypothesis that dissemination trajectories do not only support the metastatic cascade, but also embody immunosuppressive niches, capable of providing transient and localized immunosubversion cues to the migratory/invasive cancer cell subpopulation while in the act of departing from a primary tumor. So long as these dissemination trajectories function as "immune deserts", the migratory tumor cell subpopulation remains efficient in evading immunological destruction and seeding metastatic sites, despite administration of cancer immunotherapy and/or other cytotoxic treatments. A deeper understanding of the molecular and cellular composition, as well as the signaling circuitries governing the function of these dissemination trajectories will further our overall understanding on TAM-mediated immunosuppression and will be paramount for the development of new therapeutic strategies for the advancement of optimal cancer chemotherapies, immunotherapies, and targeted therapies.
    Keywords:   cancer immunotherapy; T cells; endothelial anergy; lymphocyte exclusion; lymphocyte exhaustion; macrophages; metastasis; tumor microenvironment
  3. Cancers (Basel). 2021 Apr 23. pii: 2053. [Epub ahead of print]13(9):
      The tumor microenvironment (TME) regulates essential tumor survival and promotion functions. Interactions between the cellular and structural components of the TME allow cancer cells to become invasive and disseminate from the primary site to distant locations, through a complex and multistep metastatic cascade. Tumor-associated M2-type macrophages have growth-promoting and immunosuppressive functions; mesenchymal cells mass produce exosomes that increase the migratory ability of cancer cells; cancer associated fibroblasts (CAFs) reorganize the surrounding matrix creating migration-guiding tracks for cancer cells. In addition, the tumor extracellular matrix (ECM) exerts determinant roles in disease progression and cancer cell migration and regulates therapeutic responses. The hypoxic conditions generated at the primary tumor force cancer cells to genetically and/or epigenetically adapt in order to survive and metastasize. In the circulation, cancer cells encounter platelets, immune cells, and cytokines in the blood microenvironment that facilitate their survival and transit. This review discusses the roles of different cellular and structural tumor components in regulating the metastatic process, targeting approaches using small molecule inhibitors, nanoparticles, manipulated exosomes, and miRNAs to inhibit tumor invasion as well as current and future strategies to remodel the TME and enhance treatment efficacy to block the detrimental process of metastasis.
    Keywords:  cancer therapy; drug delivery; immune system; metastasis; tumor microenvironment
  4. Cells. 2021 Apr 17. pii: 927. [Epub ahead of print]10(4):
      The tumor microenvironment (TME) represents a complex network between tumor cells and a variety of components including immune, stromal and vascular endothelial cells as well as the extracellular matrix. A wide panel of signals and interactions here take place, resulting in a bi-directional modulation of cellular functions. Many stimuli, on one hand, induce tumor growth and the spread of metastatic cells and, on the other hand, contribute to the establishment of an immunosuppressive environment. The latter feature is achieved by soothing immune effector cells, mainly cytotoxic T lymphocytes and B and NK cells, and/or through expansion of regulatory cell populations, including regulatory T and B cells, tumor-associated macrophages and myeloid-derived suppressor cells. In this context, immune checkpoints (IC) are key players in the control of T cell activation and anti-cancer activities, leading to the inhibition of tumor cell lysis and of pro-inflammatory cytokine production. Thus, these pathways represent promising targets for the development of effective and innovative therapies both in adults and children. Here, we address the role of different cell populations homing the TME and of well-known and recently characterized IC in the context of pediatric solid tumors. We also discuss preclinical and clinical data available using IC inhibitors alone, in combination with each other or administered with standard therapies.
    Keywords:  immune checkpoint inhibitors; immune suppression; pediatric solid tumor
  5. Lab Chip. 2021 Apr 29.
      Cancer immunotherapies based on the ability of T cells to recognize and kill tumor cells (TCs), including immune checkpoint blockade (ICB) therapy and chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cell therapy, have been greatly successful recently, but they are applicable for only a fraction of patients. One of the main challenges in cancer immunotherapy is the improvement of T cell infiltration into solid tumor tissues, as T cells can exert cytotoxicity against TCs only when they are in contact with TCs. T cells in the bloodstream infiltrate into solid tumor tissues by following two steps known as extravasation and interstitial migration. Herein, we developed a multilayered blood vessel/tumor tissue chip (MBTC) that allows systematic investigation on T cell tumor infiltration. The MBTC is composed of a top fluidic chamber, a porous membrane covered with an endothelial cell (EC) monolayer, and a collagen gel block encapsulating TCs. The full sequence of T cell tumor infiltration, including extravasation and interstitial migration, required for TC killing is demonstrated in the MBTCs: T cells applied through the top fluidic chamber of the MBTCs exhibited dynamic interactions with ECs for extravasation, including intraluminal crawling and transendothelial migration (TEM). After extravasation, T cells migrate toward TCs located at the bottom of a collagen block to kill them. Key characteristics of T cell dynamics in tumor microenvironments are recapitulated in the MBTCs: the vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) produced by TCs suppressed EC activation by inflammatory cytokines, or induced EC anergy, thereby significantly reducing T cell extravasation, whereas chemokines produced by TCs triggered T cell chemotaxis toward TCs. Anti-VEGF treatment in the MBTCs reverts EC anergy and promotes T cell infiltration, similar to the clinical effects of anti-VEGF. The MBTC is a useful model for pre-clinical evaluation of immunotherapeutics and the fundamental study of tumor immunology.
  6. Nat Rev Immunol. 2021 Apr 29.
      Several non-redundant features of the tumour microenvironment facilitate immunosuppression and limit anticancer immune responses. These include physical barriers to immune infiltration, the recruitment of suppressive immune cells and the upregulation of ligands on tumour cells that bind to inhibitory receptors on immune cells. Recent insights into the importance of the metabolic restrictions imposed by the tumour microenvironment on antitumour T cells have begun to inform immunotherapeutic anticancer strategies. Therapeutics that target metabolic restrictions, such as low glucose levels, a low pH, hypoxia and the generation of suppressive metabolites, have shown promise as combination therapies for different types of cancer. In this Review, we discuss the metabolic aspects of the antitumour T cell response in the context of immune checkpoint blockade, adoptive cell therapy and treatment with oncolytic viruses, and discuss emerging combination strategies.
  7. J Vis Exp. 2021 Apr 10.
      Neovascularization is usually initialized from an existing normal vasculature and the biomechanical microenvironment of endothelial cells (ECs) in the initial stage varies dramatically from the following process of neovascularization. Although there are plenty of models to simulate different stages of neovascularization, an in vitro 3D model that capitulates the initial process of neovascularization under the corresponding stimulations of normal vasculature microenvironments is still lacking. Here, we reconstructed an in vitro 3D model that mimics the initial event of neovascularization (MIEN). The MIEN model contains a microfluidic sprouting chip and an automatic control, highly efficient circulation system. A functional, perfusable microchannel coated with endothelium was formed and the process of sprouting was simulated in the microfluidic sprouting chip. The initially physiological microenvironment of neovascularization was recapitulated with the microfluidic control system, by which ECs would be exposed to high luminal shear stress, physiological transendothelial flow, and various vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) distributions simultaneously. The MIEN model can be readily applied to the study of neovascularization mechanism and holds a potential promise as a low-cost platform for drug screening and toxicology applications.
  8. Cell Stem Cell. 2021 Apr 21. pii: S1934-5909(21)00155-7. [Epub ahead of print]
      The exocrine pancreas, consisting of ducts and acini, is the site of origin of pancreatitis and pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC). Our understanding of the genesis and progression of human pancreatic diseases, including PDAC, is limited because of challenges in maintaining human acinar and ductal cells in culture. Here we report induction of human pluripotent stem cells toward pancreatic ductal and acinar organoids that recapitulate properties of the neonatal exocrine pancreas. Expression of the PDAC-associated oncogene GNASR201C induces cystic growth more effectively in ductal than acinar organoids, whereas KRASG12D is more effective in modeling cancer in vivo when expressed in acinar compared with ductal organoids. KRASG12D, but not GNASR201C, induces acinar-to-ductal metaplasia-like changes in culture and in vivo. We develop a renewable source of ductal and acinar organoids for modeling exocrine development and diseases and demonstrate lineage tropism and plasticity for oncogene action in the human pancreas.
    Keywords:  GNAS; KRAS; acini; cancer precursor; exocrine pancreas; lineage specification; organoid; pancreatic cancer; plasticity; pluripotent stem cell
  9. Front Bioeng Biotechnol. 2021 ;9 637048
      The use of human cells for the construction of 3D organ models in vitro based on cell self-assembly and engineering design has recently increased in popularity in the field of biological science. Although the organoids are able to simulate the structures and functions of organs in vitro, the 3D models have difficulty in forming a complex vascular network that can recreate the interaction between tissue and vascular systems. Therefore, organoids are unable to survive, due to the lack of oxygen and nutrients, as well as the accumulation of metabolic waste. Organoids-on-a-chip provides a more controllable and favorable design platform for co-culture of different cells and tissue types in organoid systems, overcoming some of the limitations present in organoid culture. However, the majority of them has vascular networks that are not adequately elaborate to simulate signal communications between bionic microenvironment (e.g., fluid shear force) and multiple organs. Here, we will review the technological progress of the vascularization in organoids and organoids-on-a-chip and the development of intravital 3D and 4D bioprinting as a new way for vascularization, which can aid in further study on tissue or organ development, disease research and regenerative medicine.
    Keywords:  advanced printing methods; micro-environment; organiods-on-a-chip; organoid; vascularization
  10. Int J Mol Sci. 2021 Apr 21. pii: 4322. [Epub ahead of print]22(9):
      Glioblastoma is one of the most common and lethal types of primary brain tumor. Despite aggressive treatment with chemotherapy and radiotherapy, tumor recurrence within 6-9 months is common. To overcome this, more effective therapies targeting cancer cell stemness, invasion, metabolism, cell death resistance and the interactions of tumor cells with their surrounding microenvironment are required. In this study, we performed a systematic review of the molecular mechanisms that drive glioblastoma progression, which led to the identification of 65 drugs/inhibitors that we screened for their efficacy to kill patient-derived glioma stem cells in two dimensional (2D) cultures and patient-derived three dimensional (3D) glioblastoma explant organoids (GBOs). From the screening, we found a group of drugs that presented different selectivity on different patient-derived in vitro models. Moreover, we found that Costunolide, a TERT inhibitor, was effective in reducing the cell viability in vitro of both primary tumor models as well as tumor models pre-treated with chemotherapy and radiotherapy. These results present a novel workflow for screening a relatively large groups of drugs, whose results could lead to the identification of more personalized and effective treatment for recurrent glioblastoma.
    Keywords:  drug screening; glioblastoma; organoids; personalized medicine; therapy resistance; tumor microenvironment
  11. Cells. 2021 Apr 03. pii: 803. [Epub ahead of print]10(4):
      Biofabrication, including printing technologies, has emerged as a powerful approach to the design of disease models, such as in cancer research. In breast cancer, adipose tissue has been acknowledged as an important part of the tumor microenvironment favoring tumor progression. Therefore, in this study, a 3D-printed breast cancer model for facilitating investigations into cancer cell-adipocyte interaction was developed. First, we focused on the printability of human adipose-derived stromal cell (ASC) spheroids in an extrusion-based bioprinting setup and the adipogenic differentiation within printed spheroids into adipose microtissues. The printing process was optimized in terms of spheroid viability and homogeneous spheroid distribution in a hyaluronic acid-based bioink. Adipogenic differentiation after printing was demonstrated by lipid accumulation, expression of adipogenic marker genes, and an adipogenic ECM profile. Subsequently, a breast cancer cell (MDA-MB-231) compartment was printed onto the adipose tissue constructs. After nine days of co-culture, we observed a cancer cell-induced reduction of the lipid content and a remodeling of the ECM within the adipose tissues, with increased fibronectin, collagen I and collagen VI expression. Together, our data demonstrate that 3D-printed breast cancer-adipose tissue models can recapitulate important aspects of the complex cell-cell and cell-matrix interplay within the tumor-stroma microenvironment.
    Keywords:  adipose tissue; adipose-derived stromal cells; bioprinting; breast cancer model; extracellular matrix; hyaluronic acid; spheroids
  12. Nat Rev Immunol. 2021 Apr 28.
      The mutational landscape of colorectal cancer (CRC) does not enable predictions to be made about the survival of patients or their response to therapy. Instead, studying the polarization and activation profiles of immune cells and stromal cells in the tumour microenvironment has been shown to be more informative, thus making CRC a prototypical example of the importance of an inflammatory microenvironment for tumorigenesis. Here, we review our current understanding of how colon cancer cells interact with their microenvironment, comprised of immune cells, stromal cells and the intestinal microbiome, to suppress or escape immune responses and how inflammatory processes shape the immune pathogenesis of CRC.
  13. Bioengineering (Basel). 2021 Apr 27. pii: 51. [Epub ahead of print]8(5):
      Macromolecular components of the vascular extracellular matrix (ECM), particularly elastic fibers and collagen fibers, are critical for the proper physiological function of arteries. When the unique biomechanical combination of these fibers is disrupted, or in the ultimate extreme where fibers are completely lost, arterial disease can emerge. Bioengineers in the realms of vascular tissue engineering and regenerative medicine must therefore ideally consider how to create tissue engineered vascular grafts containing the right balance of these fibers and how to develop regenerative treatments for situations such as an aneurysm where fibers have been lost. Previous work has demonstrated that the primary cells responsible for vascular ECM production during development, arterial smooth muscle cells (SMCs), can be induced to make new elastic fibers when exposed to secreted factors from adipose-derived stromal cells. To further dissect how this signal is transmitted, in this study, the factors were partitioned into extracellular vesicle (EV)-rich and EV-depleted fractions as well as unseparated controls. EVs were validated using electron microscopy, dynamic light scattering, and protein quantification before testing for biological effects on SMCs. In 2D culture, EVs promoted SMC proliferation and migration. After 30 days of 3D fibrin construct culture, EVs promoted SMC transcription of the elastic microfibril gene FBN1 as well as SMC deposition of insoluble elastin and collagen. Uniaxial biomechanical properties of strand fibrin constructs were no different after 30 days of EV treatment versus controls. In summary, it is apparent that some of the positive effects of adipose-derived stromal cells on SMC elastogenesis are mediated by EVs, indicating a potential use for these EVs in a regenerative therapy to restore the biomechanical function of vascular ECM in arterial disease.
    Keywords:  aneurysm; fibers; modulus; regenerative medicine; vasculature
  14. Cells. 2021 Apr 08. pii: 847. [Epub ahead of print]10(4):
      Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) has a poor prognosis with a 5 year survival rate of less than 8%, and is predicted to become the second leading cause of cancer-related death by 2030. Alongside late detection, which impacts upon surgical treatment, PDAC tumours are challenging to treat due to their desmoplastic stroma and hypovascular nature, which limits the effectiveness of chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Pancreatic stellate cells (PSCs), which form a key part of this stroma, become activated in response to tumour development, entering into cross-talk with cancer cells to induce tumour cell proliferation and invasion, leading to metastatic spread. We and others have shown that Fibroblast Growth Factor Receptor (FGFR) signalling can play a critical role in the interactions between PDAC cells and the tumour microenvironment, but it is clear that the FGFR signalling pathway is not acting in isolation. Here we describe our current understanding of the mechanisms by which FGFR signalling contributes to PDAC progression, focusing on its interaction with other pathways in signalling networks and discussing the therapeutic approaches that are being developed to try and improve prognosis for this terrible disease.
    Keywords:  FGF signalling; crosstalk; pancreatic cancer; stroma; targeted therapy
  15. Cell Stem Cell. 2021 Apr 15. pii: S1934-5909(21)00111-9. [Epub ahead of print]
      Personalized in vitro models for dysplasia and carcinogenesis in the pancreas have been constrained by insufficient differentiation of human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs) into the exocrine pancreatic lineage. Here, we differentiate hPSCs into pancreatic duct-like organoids (PDLOs) with morphological, transcriptional, proteomic, and functional characteristics of human pancreatic ducts, further maturing upon transplantation into mice. PDLOs are generated from hPSCs inducibly expressing oncogenic GNAS, KRAS, or KRAS with genetic covariance of lost CDKN2A and from induced hPSCs derived from a McCune-Albright patient. Each oncogene causes a specific growth, structural, and molecular phenotype in vitro. While transplanted PDLOs with oncogenic KRAS alone form heterogenous dysplastic lesions or cancer, KRAS with CDKN2A loss develop dedifferentiated pancreatic ductal adenocarcinomas. In contrast, transplanted PDLOs with mutant GNAS lead to intraductal papillary mucinous neoplasia-like structures. Conclusively, PDLOs enable in vitro and in vivo studies of pancreatic plasticity, dysplasia, and cancer formation from a genetically defined background.
    Keywords:  CDKN2A; GNAS; IPMN; KRAS; PDAC; disease modelling; ductal pancreatic organoids; human pluripotent stem cells; in vitro differentiation; xenograft
  16. Int J Mol Sci. 2021 Apr 20. pii: 4289. [Epub ahead of print]22(8):
      Pancreatic cancer is a unique cancer in that up to 90% of its tumour mass is composed of a hypovascular and fibrotic stroma. This makes it extremely difficult for chemotherapies to be delivered into the core of the cancer mass. We tissue-engineered a biomimetic 3D pancreatic cancer ("tumouroid") model comprised of a central artificial cancer mass (ACM), containing MIA Paca-2 cells, surrounded by a fibrotic stromal compartment. This stromal compartment had a higher concentration of collagen type I, fibronectin, laminin, and hyaluronic acid (HA) than the ACM. The incorporation of HA was validated with alcian blue staining. Response to paclitaxel was determined in 2D MIA Paca-2 cell cultures, the ACMs alone, and in simple and complex tumouroids, in order to demonstrate drug sensitivity within pancreatic tumouroids of increasing complexity. The results showed that MIA Paca-2 cells grew into the complex stroma and invaded as cell clusters with a maximum distance of 363.7 µm by day 21. In terms of drug response, the IC50 for paclitaxel for MIA Paca-2 cells increased from 0.819 nM in 2D to 3.02 nM in ACMs and to 5.87 nM and 3.803 nM in simple and complex tumouroids respectively, indicating that drug penetration may be significantly reduced in the latter. The results demonstrate the need for biomimetic models during initial drug testing and evaluation.
    Keywords:  3D tumour models; chemoresistance; desmoplasia; hyaluronic acid; pancreatic cancer
  17. Front Bioeng Biotechnol. 2021 ;9 660502
      The use of tissue-engineered 3D models of cancer has grown in popularity with recent advances in the field of cancer research. 3D models are inherently more biomimetic compared to 2D cell monolayers cultured on tissue-culture plastic. Nevertheless 3D models still lack the cellular and matrix complexity of native tissues. This review explores different 3D models currently used, outlining their benefits and limitations. Specifically, this review focuses on stiffness and collagen density, compartmentalization, tumor-stroma cell population and extracellular matrix composition. Furthermore, this review explores the methods utilized in different models to directly measure cancer invasion and growth. Of the models evaluated, with PDX and in vivo as a relative "gold standard", tumoroids were deemed as comparable 3D cancer models with a high degree of biomimicry, in terms of stiffness, collagen density and the ability to compartmentalize the tumor and stroma. Future 3D models for different cancer types are proposed in order to improve the biomimicry of cancer models used for studying disease progression.
    Keywords:  3D models; collagen density; compartmentalization; extracellular matrix; stiffness; stromal cells; tissue-engineering; tumor stroma