Tumor Engineering: The Other Face of Tissue Engineering

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Advances in tissue engineering have been accomplished for years by employing biomimetic strategies to provide cells with aspects of their original microenvironment necessary to reconstitute a unit of both form and function for a given tissue.We believe that the most critical hallmark of cancer is loss of integration of architecture and function; thus, it stands to reason that similar strategies could be employed to understand tumor biology. In this commentary, we discuss work contributed by Fischbach-Teschl and colleagues to this special issue of Tissue Engineering in the context of 'tumor engineering', that is, the construction of complex cell culture models ... continued below

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Ghajar, Cyrus M & Bissell, Mina J March 9, 2010.

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Advances in tissue engineering have been accomplished for years by employing biomimetic strategies to provide cells with aspects of their original microenvironment necessary to reconstitute a unit of both form and function for a given tissue.We believe that the most critical hallmark of cancer is loss of integration of architecture and function; thus, it stands to reason that similar strategies could be employed to understand tumor biology. In this commentary, we discuss work contributed by Fischbach-Teschl and colleagues to this special issue of Tissue Engineering in the context of 'tumor engineering', that is, the construction of complex cell culture models that recapitulate aspects of the in vivo tumor microenvironment to study the dynamics of tumor development, progression, and therapy on multiple scales. We provide examples of fundamental questions that could be answered by developing such models, and encourage the continued collaboration between physical scientists and life scientists not only for regenerative purposes, but also to unravel the complexity that is the tumor microenvironment. In 1993, Vacanti and Langer cast a spotlight on the growing gap between patients in need of organ transplants and the amount of available donor organs; they reaffirmed that tissue engineering could eventually address this problem by 'applying principles of engineering and the life sciences toward the development of biological substitutes. Mortality figures and direct health care costs for cancer patients rival those of patients who experience organ failure. Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the United States (Source: American Cancer Society) and it is estimated that direct medical costs for cancer patients approach $100B yearly in the United States alone (Source: National Cancer Institute). In addition, any promising therapy that emerges from the laboratory costs roughly $1.7B to take from bench to bedside. Whereas we have indeed waged war on cancer, the training grounds have largely consisted of small rodents, despite marked differences between human and mouse physiology, or plastic dishes, even though just like our tissues and organs most tumors exist within three-dimensional proteinacious milieus. One could argue that this is comparable to training for a desert war in the arctic. In this special issue of tissue engineering, Fischbach-Teschl and colleagues build a strong case for engineering complex cultures analogous to normal organs to tractably model aspects of the human tumor microenvironment that simply cannot be reproduced with traditional two-dimensional cell culture techniques and that cannot be studied in a controlled fashion in vivo. This idea has gained considerable traction of late as concepts presented and convincingly shown years ago have only now begun to be appreciated. Perhaps, then, it is time to organize those who wish to build complex tumor models to study cancer biology under a common umbrella. Accordingly, we propose that tumor engineering be defined as the construction of complex culture models that recapitulate aspects of the in vivo tumor microenvironment to study the dynamics of tumor development, progression, and therapy on multiple scales. Inherent in this definition is the collaboration that must occur between physical and life scientists to guide the design of patterning techniques, materials, and imaging modalities for the study of cancer from the subcellular to tissue level in physiologically relevant contexts. To date, the most successful tissue engineering approaches have employed methods that recapitulate the composition, architecture, and/or chemical presentation of native tissue. For instance, induction of blood vessel growth for therapeutic purposes has been achieved with sequential release of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and platelet derived growth factor to induce and stabilize blood vessels. This approach imitates that which occurs during physiological angiogenesis as a result of heterotypic interactions between endothelium and stroma. Employing such biomimetic strategies has already led to success in cancer research. Studying tumors in 3D has proven far more accurate in reproducing in vivo growth characteristics and chemotherapeutic resistance than 2D approaches. A number of animal studies and co-culture experiments have identified also the importance of interactions with other nonmalignant cell types - such as endothelial cells, fibroblasts, adipocytes, leukocytes, and circulating progenitors - to support and sustain tumor growth, invasion, and metastasis. Reproducing not only the 'dynamic reciprocity' but also the 'dynamic cooperativity' between these constituents in a spatially, temporally, and functionally accurate fashion presents quite a challenge for engineering tumors. So, why do it? The reason is to ask important fundamental questions that cannot easily be answered in vivo or on tissue culture plastic for the reasons mentioned.

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  • Report No.: LBNL-3943E
  • Grant Number: DE-AC02-05CH11231
  • Office of Scientific & Technical Information Report Number: 988992
  • Archival Resource Key: ark:/67531/metadc1013928

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Reports, articles and other documents harvested from the Office of Scientific and Technical Information.

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  • March 9, 2010

Added to The UNT Digital Library

  • Oct. 14, 2017, 8:36 a.m.

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  • Oct. 17, 2017, 7:01 p.m.

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Ghajar, Cyrus M & Bissell, Mina J. Tumor Engineering: The Other Face of Tissue Engineering, book, March 9, 2010; Berkeley, California. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc1013928/: accessed April 24, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.