Microfluidic Device Mimics Tumor Microenvironment, Helps Drug Discovery Efforts

February 23, 2009

One of the challenges that cancer researchers face in designing new antitumor agents is that of predicting how drug molecules will behave in the complex microenvironment that surrounds a tumor. In particular, tumors create all sorts of chemical and physical barriers that limit how much drug is able to enter a tumor, let alone reach cells deep within a tumor. Now, Neil Forbes, Ph.D., and his colleagues at the University of Massachusetts have built a microfluidic device that can mimic these chemical and physical barriers, providing researchers with a new screening tool that may help with the design of more effective anticancer drugs.

Dr. Forbes and his colleagues, who reported their findings in the journal Lab on a Chip, designed this device to reproduce the three-dimensionality of a tumor, including areas of low pH and regions that contain cells resistant to therapy. To create this device, the investigators tested seven different cell growth chamber designs, using various imaging technologies to determine how closely cell masses growing in the device mimicked the behavior of a tumor. From these experiments, the investigators were able to select a growth chamber design that caused cells to grow into tumor masses that displayed heterogeneity closely resembling that of native tumors.

The investigators then used the device to study how doxorubicin, a widely used and widely studied anticancer drug, diffuses into and through a tumor. The device accurately modeled doxorubicin diffusion as seen in humans treated with this drug. The device also was able to recreate the accumulation patterns of anticancer bacteria that actively penetrate a tumor.

This work was detailed in the paper “A multipurpose microfluidic device designed to mimic microenvironment gradients and develop targeted cancer therapeutics.” An abstract of this paper is available at the journal’s Web site.

Provided by National Cancer Institute

Explore further: The light of fireflies for medical diagnostics

Related Stories

The light of fireflies for medical diagnostics

July 22, 2015

In biology and medicine, we often need to detect biological molecules. For example, in cancer diagnostics, doctors need quick and reliable ways of knowing if tumor cells are present in the patient's body. Although such detection ...

BioBots bioprinter to complement cutting-edge research

May 7, 2015

A high-resolution desktop 3D bioprinter that builds functional 3D living tissue was shown recently at TechCrunch Disrupt in New York. The machine is significant as a less expensive way for researchers to build 3D functional ...

Researcher uses microscale technology to isolate rare cells

June 17, 2015

In a blood sample taken from a cancer patient, there may be a single circulating tumor cell among hundreds of thousands of other cells. These tumor cells can provide valuable information about how cancer progresses, and could ...

A turning point in the physics of blood

May 7, 2015

Mike Graham knows that fluid dynamics can reveal much about how the flow of blood helps and hinders individual blood cells as they go about their work.

Recommended for you

Yarn from slaughterhouse waste

July 29, 2015

ETH researchers have developed a yarn from ordinary gelatine that has good qualities similar to those of merino wool fibers. Now they are working on making the yarn even more water resistant.

New chemistry makes strong bonds weak

July 28, 2015

Researchers at Princeton have developed a new chemical reaction that breaks the strongest bond in a molecule instead of the weakest, completely reversing the norm for reactions in which bonds are evenly split to form reactive ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

E_L_Earnhardt
not rated yet Feb 24, 2009
MITOSIS RATE is sensitive to as little as ONE DEGREE
CELSIUS! REDUCE THE TEMPERATURE AND YOU REDUCE THE RATE! I have tested this in fish and my own body. IF YOU COOL THE TUMOR IT WILL SHRINK! (An established tumor may require 10 degrees below body temp.)

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.