skip to main content

Title: Applicability of drug response metrics for cancer studies using biomaterials
Bioengineers have built models of the tumour microenvironment (TME) in which to study cell–cell interactions, mechanisms of cancer growth and metastasis, and to test new therapies. These models allow researchers to culture cells in conditions that include features of the in vivo TME implicated in regulating cancer progression, such as extracellular matrix (ECM) stiffness, integrin binding to the ECM, immune and stromal cells, growth factor and cytokine depots, and a three-dimensional geometry more representative of the in vivo TME than tissue culture polystyrene (TCPS). These biomaterials could be particularly useful for drug screening applications to make better predictions of efficacy, offering better translation to preclinical models and clinical trials. However, it can be challenging to compare drug response reports across different biomaterial platforms in the current literature. This is, in part, a result of inconsistent reporting and improper use of drug response metrics, and vast differences in cell growth rates across a large variety of biomaterial designs. This study attempts to clarify the definitions of drug response measurements used in the field, and presents examples in which these measurements can and cannot be applied. We suggest as best practice to measure the growth rate of cells in the absence of more » drug, and follow our ‘decision tree’ when reporting drug response metrics. This article is part of a discussion meeting issue ‘Forces in cancer: interdisciplinary approaches in tumour mechanobiology’. « less
; ; ; ; ;
Award ID(s):
Publication Date:
Journal Name:
Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Page Range or eLocation-ID:
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Abstract Background

    Tumour progression relies on the ability of cancer cells to penetrate and invade neighbouring tissues. E-cadherin loss is associated with increased cell invasion in gastric carcinoma, and germline mutations of the E-cadherin gene are causative of hereditary diffuse gastric cancer. Although E-cadherin dysfunction impacts cell–cell adhesion, cell dissemination also requires an imbalance of adhesion to the extracellular matrix (ECM).


    To identify ECM components and receptors relevant for adhesion of E-cadherin dysfunctional cells, we implemented a novel ECM microarray platform coupled with molecular interaction networks. The functional role of putative candidates was determined by combining micropattern traction microscopy, protein modulation and in vivo approaches, as well as transcriptomic data of 262 gastric carcinoma samples, retrieved from the cancer genome atlas (TCGA).


    Here, we show that E-cadherin mutations induce an abnormal interplay of cells with specific components of the ECM, which encompasses increased traction forces and Integrin β1 activation. Integrin β1 synergizes with E-cadherin dysfunction, promoting cell scattering and invasion. The significance of the E-cadherin-Integrin β1 crosstalk was validated inDrosophilamodels and found to be consistent with evidence from human gastric carcinomas, where increased tumour grade and poor survival are associated with low E-cadherin and high Integrin β1 levels.


    Integrin β1 ismore »a key mediator of invasion in carcinomas with E-cadherin impairment and should be regarded as a biomarker of poor prognosis in gastric cancer.

    « less
  2. Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) is a devastating lung disease that progressively and irreversibly alters the lung parenchyma, eventually leading to respiratory failure. The study of this disease has been historically challenging due to the myriad of complex processes that contribute to fibrogenesis and the inherent difficulty in accurately recreating the human pulmonary environment in vitro . Here, we describe a poly(ethylene glycol) PEG hydrogel-based three-dimensional model for the co-culture of primary murine pulmonary fibroblasts and alveolar epithelial cells that reproduces the micro-architecture, cell placement, and mechanical properties of healthy and fibrotic lung tissue. Co-cultured cells retained normal levels of viability up to at least three weeks and displayed differentiation patterns observed in vivo during IPF progression. Interrogation of protein and gene expression within this model showed that myofibroblast activation required both extracellular mechanical cues and the presence of alveolar epithelial cells. Differences in gene expression indicated that cellular co-culture induced TGF-β signaling and proliferative gene expression, while microenvironmental stiffness upregulated the expression of genes related to cell–ECM interactions. This biomaterial-based cell culture system serves as a significant step forward in the accurate recapitulation of human lung tissue in vitro and highlights the need to incorporate multiple factors that work togethermore »synergistically in vivo into models of lung biology of health and disease.« less
  3. Currently, there is a great interest in nanoparticle-based vaccine delivery. Recent studies suggest that nanoparticles when introduced into the biological milieu are not simply passive carriers but may also contribute immunological activity themselves or of their own accord. For example there is considerable interest in the biomedical applications of one of the physiologically-based inorganic metal oxide nanoparticle, zinc oxide (ZnO). Indeed zinc oxide (ZnO) NP are now recognized as a nanoscale chemotherapeutic or anticancer nanoparticle (ANP) and several recent reports suggest ZnO NP and/or its complexes with drug and RNA induce a potent antitumor response in immuno-competent mouse models. A variety of cell culture studies have shown that ZnO NP can induce cytokines such as IFN-γ, TNF-α, IL-2, and IL-12 which are known to regulate the tumor microenvironment. Much less work has been done on magnesium oxide (MgO), cobalt oxide (Co3O4), or nickel oxide (NiO); however, despite the fact that these physiologically-based metal oxide NP are reported to functionally load and assemble RNA and protein onto their surface and may thus also be of potential interest as nanovaccine platform. Here we initially compared in vitro immunogenicity of ZnO and Co3O4 NP and their effects on cancer-associated or tolerogenic cytokines. Basedmore »on these data we moved ZnO NP forward to testing in the ex vivo splenocyte assay relative to MgO and NiO NP and these data showed significant difference for flow cytometry sorted population for ZnO-NP, relative to NiO and MgO. These data suggesting both molecular and cellular immunogenic activity, a double-stranded anticancer RNA (ACR), polyinosinic:poly cytidylic acid (poly I:C) known to bind ZnO NP; when ZnO-poly I:C was injected into B16F10-BALB/C tumor significantly induced, IL-2 and IL-12 as shown by Cohen’s d test. LL37 is an anticancer peptide (ACP) currently in clinical trials as an intratumoral immuno-therapeutic agent against metastatic melanoma. LL37 is known to bind poly I:C where it is thought to compete for receptor binding on the surface of some immune cells, metastatic melanoma and lung cells. Molecular dynamic simulations revealed association of LL37 onto ZnO NP confirmed by gel shift assay. Thus using the well-characterized model human lung cancer model cell line (BEAS-2B), poly I:C RNA, LL37 peptide, or LL37-poly I:C complexes were loaded onto ZnO NP and delivered to BEAS-2B lung cells, and the effect on the main cancer regulating cytokine, IL-6 determined by ELISA. Surprisingly ZnO-LL37, but not ZnO-poly I:C or the more novel tricomplex (ZnO-LL37-poly I:C) significantly suppressed IL-6 by >98–99%. These data support the further evaluation of physiological metal oxide compositions, so-called physiometacomposite (PMC) materials and their formulation with anticancer peptide (ACP) and/or anticancer RNA (ACR) as a potential new class of immuno-therapeutic against melanoma and potentially lung carcinoma or other cancers.« less
  4. Abstract The transcriptional plasticity of cancer cells promotes intercellular heterogeneity in response to anticancer drugs and facilitates the generation of subpopulation surviving cells. Characterizing single-cell transcriptional heterogeneity after drug treatments can provide mechanistic insights into drug efficacy. Here, we used single-cell RNA-seq to examine transcriptomic profiles of cancer cells treated with paclitaxel, celecoxib and the combination of the two drugs. By normalizing the expression of endogenous genes to spike-in molecules, we found that cellular mRNA abundance shows dynamic regulation after drug treatment. Using a random forest model, we identified gene signatures classifying single cells into three states: transcriptional repression, amplification and control-like. Treatment with paclitaxel or celecoxib alone generally repressed gene transcription across single cells. Interestingly, the drug combination resulted in transcriptional amplification and hyperactivation of mitochondrial oxidative phosphorylation pathway linking to enhanced cell killing efficiency. Finally, we identified a regulatory module enriched with metabolism and inflammation-related genes activated in a subpopulation of paclitaxel-treated cells, the expression of which predicted paclitaxel efficacy across cancer cell lines and in vivo patient samples. Our study highlights the dynamic global transcriptional activity driving single-cell heterogeneity during drug response and emphasizes the importance of adding spike-in molecules to study gene expression regulation using single-cellmore »RNA-seq.« less
  5. Patient derived organoids have emerged as robust preclinical models for screening anti-cancer therapeutics. Current 2D culturing methods do not provide physiological responses to therapeutics, therefore 3D models are being developed to better reproduce physiological responses. 3D culturing however often requires large initial cell populations and one week to one month to grow tumors ready for therapeutic testing. As a solution a 3D culturing system has been developed capable of producing physiologically relevant tumors in an expedited fashion while only requiring a small number of initial cancer cells. A bi-layer microfluidic system capable of facilitating active convective nutrient supply to populations of cancer cells facilitates expedited growth of cancer cells when starting with populations as small as 8 cells. The system has been shown to function well with adherent and non-adherent cell types by expediting cell growth by a factor ranging from 1.27 to 4.76 greater than growth under static conditions. Utilizing such an approach has enable to formation of tumors ready for therapeutic screening within 3 days and the ability to perform therapeutic screening within the microfluidic system is demonstrated. A mathematical model has been developed which allows for adjustments to be made to the dynamic delivery of nutrients inmore »order to efficiently use culture media without excessive waste. We believe this work to be the first attempt to grow cancers in an expedited fashion utilizing only a convective nutrient supply within a microfluidic system which also facilitates on-device therapeutic screening. The developed microfluidic system and cancer growth method have the potential to offer improved drug screening for patients in clinical settings.« less