Current 2D culture conditions do not emulate human tumors, necessitating that human tumors be grown in immunocompromised mice as xenografts. However, this methodology is expensive, inefficient, and time- consuming thus preventing the tumor from being rapidly probed for therapeutic options. The overall objective of this collaboration is to create a 3D bioengineered matrix that will permit growth of primary human cancer cells as tissue organoids, against which drug treatments can be tested to predict the optimal clinical approach.
In collaboration with CECT, the project aims to use defined 3D hydrogel scaffolds derived from hyaluronic acid click chemistry. The hydrogel system will be optimized to grow human tumor epithelial cells into organoid structures that maintain the histopathological characteristics observed in primary tumors and in xenograft models. Complex 3D cellular microenvironments will be engineered by introducing growth factor gradients, controlled scaffold stiffness and co-culture with other cells, to achieve tumor organoids with heterotypic cell types that better model the tumor microenvironment. The ultimate objective is to grow primary human tumor biopsies in 3D organoid cultures to test anti-cancer therapies.