Creating in Vitro Three-Dimensional Tumor Models: A Guide for the Biofabrication of a Primary Osteosarcoma Model

Thomas Chow, Ilycia Wutami, Enrico Lucarelli, Peter F. Choong, Serena Duchi, Claudia Di Bella

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Osteosarcoma (OS) is a highly aggressive primary bone tumor. The mainstay for its treatment is multiagent chemotherapy and surgical resection, with a 50-70% 5-year survival rate. Despite the huge effort made by clinicians and researchers in the past 30 years, limited progress has been made to improve patient outcomes. As novel therapeutic approaches for OS become available, such as monoclonal antibodies, small molecules, and immunotherapies, the need for OS preclinical model development becomes equally pressing. Three-dimensional (3D) OS models represent an alternative system to study this tumor: In contrast to two-dimensional monolayers, 3D matrices can recapitulate key elements of the tumor microenvironment (TME), such as the cellular interaction with the bone mineralized matrix. The advancement of tissue engineering and biofabrication techniques enables the incorporation of specific TME aspects into 3D models, to investigate the contribution of individual components to tumor progression and enhance understanding of basic OS biology. The use of biomaterials that mimic the extracellular matrix could also facilitate the testing of drugs targeting the TME itself, allowing a larger range of therapeutics to be tested, while averting the ethical implications and high cost associated with in vivo preclinical models. This review aims at serving as a practical guide by delineating the OS TME ("what it is like") and, in turn, propose various biofabrication strategies to create a 3D model ("how to recreate it"), to improve the in vitro representation of the OS tumor and ultimately generate more accurate drug response profiles.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)514-529
Number of pages16
JournalTissue Engineering - Part B: Reviews
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 2021


  • osteosarcoma
  • preclinical in vitro models
  • three-dimensional tumor models
  • tumor microenvironment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Bioengineering
  • Biomaterials
  • Biochemistry
  • Biomedical Engineering


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