A microfluidic platform for quantitative analysis of cancer angiogenesis and intravasation.

PMID 25332739


Understanding the mechanism behind cancer metastasis is a major challenge in cancer biology. Several in vitro models have been developed to mimic a cancer microenvironment by engineering cancer-endothelial cell (EC) and cancer-stromal cell interactions. It has been challenging to realistically mimic angiogenesis, intravasation, and extravasation using macro-scale approaches but recent progress in microfluidics technology has begun to yield promising results. We present a metastasis chip that produce microvessels, where EC and stromal cells can be patterned in close proximity to tumor cells. The vessels are formed following a natural morphogenic process and have smooth boundaries with proper cell-cell junctions. The engineered microvessels are perfusable and have well-defined openings toward inlet and outlet channels. The ability to introduce cancer cells into different locations bordering to the microvessel wall allowed generation and maintenance of appropriate spatial gradients of growth factors and attractants. Cancer angiogenesis and its inhibition by anti-vascular endothelial growth factor (bevacizumab) treatment were successfully reproduced in the metastasis chip. Cancer intravasation and its modulation by treatment of tumor necrosis factor-α were also modeled. Compared to other models, the unique design of the metastasis chip that engineers a clear EC-cancer interface allows precise imaging and quantification of angiogenic response as well as tumor cell trans-endothelial migration. The metastasis chip presented here has potential applications in the investigation of fundamental cancer biology as well as in drug screening.