3D cellular invasion platforms: how do paper-based cultures stack up?
Cellular invasion is the gateway to metastasis, which is the leading cause of cancer-related deaths. Invasion is driven by a number of chemical and mechanical stresses that arise in the tumor microenvironment. In vitro assays are needed for the systematic study of cancer progress. To be truly predictive, these assays must generate tissue-like environments that can be experimentally controlled and manipulated. While two-dimensional (2D) monolayer cultures are easily assembled and evaluated, they lack the extracellular components needed to assess invasion. Three-dimensional (3D) cultures are better suited for invasion studies because they generate cellular phenotypes that are more representative of those found in vivo. This feature article provides an overview of four invasion platforms. We focus on paper-based cultures, an emerging 3D culture platform capable of generating tissue-like structures and quantifying cellular invasion. Paper-based cultures are as easily assembled and analyzed as monolayers, but provide an experimentally powerful platform capable of supporting: co-cultures and representative extracellular environments; experimentally controlled gradients; readouts capable of quantifying, discerning, and separating cells based on their invasiveness. With a series of examples we highlight the potential of paper-based cultures, and discuss how they stack up against other invasion platforms.
- This article is part of the themed collection: 2017 Emerging Investigators