3D In-Vitro Tumor Models Are Changing Cancer Research and Drug Discovery
Many strategies are used to conduct cancer research and in the development of effective therapies, including analysis of clinical biopsies, in vivo animal models, and in vitro models. In vitro tumor models in three dimensions such as organoids have recently emerged as a promising tool which replicates many features of solid tumors in vivo. The ever-expanding use of organoids is evident by the fact that they were chosen as ‘Method of the Year’ by Nature in 2017.
Cancer organoids are miniature, three-dimensional cell culture models that allow culturing cancer cells in a spatially relevant manner. Biomimetic hydrogel scaffolds, like those provided by Biogelx, offer the biomechanical and biochemical cues that help to recapitulate the behavior of natural extracellular matrix (ECM) and are essential for regulating cancer cell behavior.
Extensive experimental evidence has shown that the rigidity of the matrix affects cancer cells growth and activity. Moreover, tissues stiffen during the pathological progression of cancer. However, most of the 3D scaffolds traditionally used, like collagen or Matrigel gels, have the major drawback of presenting very low rigidity, which does not mimic this naturally stiff cancer environment. Furthermore, alternative, newer scaffolds like PEG-based or other synthetic materials don’t have the capacity to mimic sufficiently rigid environments either, and can often only form scaffolds up to 2 kPa. This is not the case with Biogelx materials, which can be formed into gels of stiffness ranging from 0.5 to 100 kPa, hence offering a better option to mimic the stiff ECM of solid tumors. Indeed, such a broad range of stiffness, allows the researcher to model tumors at various stages of disease progression
Biogelx materials are peptide-based hydrogels which are biochemically tunable as well and provide biomimetic sequences to resemble the tumor matrix in a defined manner. Native ECM molecules (Fibronectins, Laminins, Collagens, etc) are replicated in the gels as functional peptide units that provide cell-to-cell and integrin-binding sites creating a suitable synthetic matrix for reproducible research in cancer biology and drug discovery.