Research Papers:

Identification of drugs as single agents or in combination to prevent carcinoma dissemination in a microfluidic 3D environment

Jing Bai _, Ting-Yuan Tu, Choong Kim, Jean Paul Thiery and Roger D. Kamm

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Oncotarget. 2015; 6:36603-36614. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.5464

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Jing Bai1,2,*, Ting-Yuan Tu1,*, Choong Kim3, Jean Paul Thiery1,4,5, Roger D. Kamm1,2

1BioSystems and Micromechanics IRG, Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology, 138602, Singapore

2Department of Mechanical and Department of Biological Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA, 02139, USA

3School of Mechanical and Automotive Engineering, Kyungil University, Gyeongbuk, 712-701, South Korea

4Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology, A*STAR (Agency for Science, Technology and Research), 138673, Singapore

5Department of Biochemistry, National University of Singapore, 117597, Singapore

*These authors have contributed equally to this work

Correspondence to:

Roger D. Kamm, e-mail: [email protected]

Keywords: epithelial-mesenchymal transition, microfluidics, drug screening, synergistic effect, bladder cancer

Received: March 26, 2015     Accepted: September 28, 2015     Published: October 08, 2015


Experiments were performed in a modified microfluidic platform recapitulating part of the in vivo tumor microenvironment by co-culturing carcinoma cell aggregates embedded in a three-dimensional (3D) collagen scaffold with human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVECs). HUVECs were seeded in one channel of the device to initiate vessel-like structures in vitro prior to introducing the aggregates. The lung adenocarcinoma cell line A549 and the bladder carcinoma cell line T24 were tested. Dose-response assays of four drugs known to interfere with Epithelial Mesenchymal Transition (EMT) signaling pathways were quantified using relative dispersion as a metric of EMT progression. The presence of HUVECs in one channel induces cell dispersal in A549 which then can be inhibited by each of the four drugs. Complete inhibition of T24 aggregate dispersal, however, is not achieved with any single agent, although partial inhibition was observed with 10 μM of the Src inhibitor, AZD-0530. Almost complete inhibition of T24 dispersal in monoculture was achieved only when the four drugs were added in combination, each at 10 μM concentration. Coculture of T24 with HUVECs forfeits the almost-complete inhibition. The enhanced dispersal observed in the presence of HUVECs is a consequence of secretion of growth factors, including HGF and FGF-2, by endothelial cells. This 3D microfluidic co-culture platform provides an in vivo-like surrogate for anti-invasive and anti-metastatic drug screening. It will be particularly useful for defining combination therapies for aggressive tumors such as invasive bladder carcinoma.

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