Date(s) - 04/04/2016
Over 500,000 people in the US will die of cancer this year and cancer is expected to be the leading cause of death in the US by 2030. Currently, cancer therapies are developed through laboratory tests of tumor cells grown in petri dishes or implanted in mice. Both approaches have severe limitations. Cancer cells in the petri dish react to treatment differently from cells within the tumor because of their dramatically different environment. Tumor cells implanted into mice grow extremely slowly, and only the most aggressive cancers will grow in rodents. Thus, there is an immediate need for cancer research platforms with the facility and versatility of cell culture that rival or surpass the effectiveness of animal models, allowing biochemical, environmental, and mechanical parameters to be tuned precisely for each cancer, patient and test condition. In this presentation I will describe a recently developed three-dimensional microenvironment for cancer cell growth, as well as a 3D printing technique for creating tumors within this 3D growth medium. The method leverages the fluid-solid jamming transition within liquid-like solids, which allows robotically controlled nozzles to create cellular structures, deposit molecules, and exchange fluids directly to suspended cell populations. This system enables the large scale, rapid generation of tumor spheroids of reproducible size and geometry with access to nutrients or exogenously added bioactive molecules through unrestricted diffusion. This research is the focus of an ongoing collaboration between multiple laboratories from the college of engineering and the college of medicine at the University of Florida. The ultimate goal is to discover the chemical and physical environmental conditions necessary to create in vitro replicas of in vivo tumors – in other words: to engineer the tumor.