The potential of three-dimensional tumor models and cell culturing in cancer research and diagnostics

Alföldi, R., Szebeni, JG., and Puskás, LG.

In vitro testing of antitumor agents on human cancer cell lines has become essential in pharmaceutical research and in clinical practice. Although the most widely used technique is the two-dimensional cell growing protocol (in tissue culture plates), the new three-dimensional methods are becoming more and more popular as their structure and complexity is more similar to the microenvironment of the real tumor. The aim of the present study is to describe the most widely used in vitro three-dimensional tumor models and to compare a RAFT(TM) three dimensional in vitro tumor model with the traditional two-dimensional tumor cell cultures. In the study, the viability and the enzyme activity of cultured A549 non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) cells under different conditions were compared. The results show that while the number of necrotic cells increased significantly (20-fold; 2D/A549 T75 conventional tissue culture flask 1.6%; 2D/A549-collagen coated T75 tissue culture flask 1.45%, RAFT(TM) 22.11%) during long culturing period in the RAFT(TM) three-dimensional in vitro tumor model, there was no significant difference during the conventional antitumor screening period (3-5 day) compared to the traditional two-dimensional cell cultures. The structure of the tumor cell islets grown with RAFT(TM) is much more complex than that of the traditional two-dimensional cultures. Thus, similarly to the in vivo tumor microenvironment, there is also a collagen matrix in the extracellular space which can have significant effect on the diffusion of the antitumor agents to cells. In conclusion, it can be stated that testing of antitumor agents on tumor cells cultured in three-dimensional systems can be an important complementary method to the traditional two-dimensional in vitro analyses. The results of the new three-dimensional method can be more easily applied in the in vivo analysis and translated into clinical practice.