Bioprinting the Cancer Microenvironment

Cancer is the name given to a collection of related diseases. In all types of cancer, some of the body’s cells begin to divide without stopping and spread into surrounding tissues. Cancer can start almost anywhere in the human body, which is made up of trillions of cells. Normally, human cells grow and divide to form new cells as the body needs them. When cells grow old or become damaged, they die, and new cells take their place.

When cancer develops, however, this orderly process breaks down. As cells become more and more abnormal, old or damaged cells survive when they should die, and new cells form when they are not needed. These extra cells can divide without stopping and may form growths called tumors. (1)

Cancer is intrinsically complex, comprising both heterogeneous cellular compositions and microenvironmental cues. During the various stages of cancer initiation, development, and metastasis, cell–cell interactions (involving vascular and immune cells besides cancerous cells) as well as cell-extracellular matrix (ECM) interactions (e.g., alteration in stiffness and composition of the surrounding matrix) play major roles. Conventional cancer models both two- and three-dimensional (2D and 3D) present numerous limitations as they lack good vascularization and cannot mimic the complexity of tumors, thereby restricting their use as biomimetic models for applications such as drug screening and fundamental cancer biology studies. Bioprinting as an emerging biofabrication platform enables the creation of high-resolution 3D structures and has been extensively used in the past decade to model multiple organs and diseases. More recently, this versatile technique has further found its application in studying cancer genesis, growth, metastasis, and drug responses through creation of accurate models that recreate the complexity of the cancer microenvironment. In this review scientists focus first on cancer biology and limitations with current cancer models. We then detail the current bioprinting strategies including the selection of bioinks for capturing the properties of the tumor matrices, after which we discuss bioprinting of vascular structures that are critical toward construction of complex 3D cancer organoids. We finally conclude with current literature on bioprinted cancer models and propose future perspectives. (2)


Source 1: National Cancer Institute (NIH)

Source 2: ACS Biomaterial Journal

Thursday 09 March 2017