Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Blossoming Development

Bioengineered matrix enables life-like growth of ovarian cancer in the lab

13 August 2021

Blossoming Development

These blossom-like shapes are the result of a new approach which will allow scientists to test novel treatments for ovarian cancer. Traditionally, new cancer drugs were tested on cancer cells grown in a single-layer. Unfortunately, less than 5% of drugs identified this way go on to become effective treatments. The problem is that a flat, 2D culture is a poor mimic for the spherical 3D structures usually found in ovarian cancers. The ‘blossoms’ shown here are ovarian tumours growing in 3D suspension in an innovative hydrogel matrix. At their centre (highlighted in blue) are tumour cells, while in pink is a protein called F-actin which forms a network around the tumour cells and the green ‘leaves’ are non-cancer cells. In single layer cultures the last two elements are missing but are both essential for 3D tumour growth. This more life-like culture method will allow faster identification of effective therapies.

Written by Julie Webb

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