In the ongoing research endeavour to find effective treatments against cancer, scientists test countless candidate drugs on cultured cancer cells to see which will stop the cells’ growth or, better still, kill them. But inside the human body, cancers don’t generally grow as two-dimensional sheets the way they do in culture dishes. They grow as three-dimensional tumours, with the cells on the outside of the tumour experiencing different molecular interactions and influences to those within. To improve the emulation of real tumours in a laboratory setting, researchers have come up with a method for culturing three-dimensional cancer spheroids – the one shown here being created from a human pancreatic cancer cell line. The use of such tumour balls has already led to the discovery of a compound that prevents growth of cells carrying a common cancer mutation, therefore setting a precedent for similar discoveries in the future.
Written by Ruth Williams
BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.
BPoD is also available in Catalan at www.bpod.cat with translations by the University of Valencia.