Engineered three-dimensional microfluidic device for interrogating cell-cell interactions in the tumor microenvironment.

Hockemeyer K, Janetopoulos C, Terekhov A, Hofmeister W, Vilgelm A, Costa L, Wikswo JP, Richmond A
Biomicrofluidics. 2014 8 (4): 044105

PMID: 25379090 · PMCID: PMC4189212 · DOI:10.1063/1.4890330

Stromal cells in the tumor microenvironment play a key role in the metastatic properties of a tumor. It is recognized that cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAFs) and endothelial cells secrete factors capable of influencing tumor cell migration into the blood or lymphatic vessels. We developed a microfluidic device that can be used to image the interactions between stromal cells and tumor cell spheroids in a three dimensional (3D) microenvironment while enabling external control of interstitial flow at an interface, which supports endothelial cells. The apparatus couples a 200-μm channel with a semicircular well to mimic the interface of a blood vessel with the stroma, and the design allows for visualization of the interactions of interstitial flow, endothelial cells, leukocytes, and fibroblasts with the tumor cells. We observed that normal tissue-associated fibroblasts (NAFs) contribute to the "single file" pattern of migration of tumor cells from the spheroid in the 3D microenvironment. In contrast, CAFs induce a rapid dispersion of tumor cells out of the spheroid with migration into the 3D matrix. Moreover, treatment of tumor spheroid cultures with the chemokine CXCL12 mimics the effect of the CAFs, resulting in similar patterns of dispersal of the tumor cells from the spheroid. Conversely, addition of CXCL12 to co-cultures of NAFs with tumor spheroids did not mimic the effects observed with CAF co-cultures, suggesting that NAFs produce factors that stabilize the tumor spheroids to reduce their migration in response to CXCL12.

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