Engineering Breast Cancer Microenvironments and 3D Bioprinting

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The extracellular matrix (ECM) is a critical cue to direct tumorigenesis and metastasis. Although two-dimensional (2D) culture models have been widely employed to understand breast cancer microenvironments over the past several decades, the 2D models still exhibit limited success. Overwhelming evidence supports that three dimensional (3D), physiologically relevant culture models are required to better understand cancer progression and develop more effective treatment. Such platforms should include cancer-specific architectures, relevant physicochemical signals, stromal-cancer cell interactions, immune components, vascular components, and cell-ECM interactions found in patient tumors. This review briefly summarizes how cancer microenvironments (stromal component, cell-ECM interactions, and molecular modulators) are defined and what emerging technologies (perfusable scaffold, tumor stiffness, supporting cells within tumors and complex patterning) can be utilized to better mimic native-like breast cancer microenvironments. Furthermore, this review emphasizes biophysical properties that differ between primary tumor ECM and tissue sites of metastatic lesions with a focus on matrix modulation of cancer stem cells, providing a rationale for investigation of underexplored ECM proteins that could alter patient prognosis. To engineer breast cancer microenvironments, we categorized technologies into two groups: (1) biochemical factors modulating breast cancer cell-ECM interactions and (2) 3D bioprinting methods and its applications to model breast cancer microenvironments. Biochemical factors include matrix-associated proteins, soluble factors, ECMs, and synthetic biomaterials. For the application of 3D bioprinting, we discuss the transition of 2D patterning to 3D scaffolding with various bioprinting technologies to implement biophysical cues to model breast cancer microenvironments.

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Frontiers in bioengineering and biotechnology

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