Printing cancer cells into intact microvascular networks: a model for investigating cancer cell dynamics during angiogenesis
While cancer cell invasion and metastasis are dependent on cancer cell–stroma, cancer cell–blood vessel, and cancer cell–lymphatic vessel interactions, our understanding of these interactions remain largely unknown. A need exists for physiologically-relevant models that more closely mimic the complexity of cancer cell dynamics in a real tissue environment. The objective of this study was to combine laser-based cell printing and tissue culture methods to create a novel ex vivo model in which cancer cell dynamics can be tracked during angiogenesis in an intact microvascular network. Laser direct-write (LDW) was utilized to reproducibly deposit breast cancer cells (MDA-MB-231 and MCF-7) and fibroblasts into spatially-defined patterns on cultured rat mesenteric tissues. In addition, heterogeneous patterns containing co-printed MDA-MB-231/fibroblasts or MDA-MB-231/MCF-7 cells were generated for fibroblast-directed and collective cell invasion models. Printed cells remained viable and the cells retained the ability to proliferate in serum-rich media conditions. Over a culture period of five days, time-lapse imaging confirmed fibroblast and MDA-MB-231 cell migration within the microvascular networks. Confocal microscopy indicated that printed MDA-MB-231 cells infiltrated the tissue thickness and were capable of interacting with endothelial cells. Angiogenic network growth in tissue areas containing printed cancer cells was characterized by significantly increased capillary sprouting compared to control tissue areas containing no printed cells. Our results establish an innovative ex vivo experimental platform that enables time-lapse evaluation of cancer cell dynamics during angiogenesis within a real microvascular network scenario.