Mechanical studies of the third dimension in cancer: From 2D to 3D model

Francesca Paradiso, Stefano Serpelloni, Lewis W. Francis, Francesca Taraballi

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


From the development of self-aggregating, scaffold-free multicellular spheroids to the inclusion of scaffold systems, 3D models have progressively increased in complexity to better mimic native tissues. The inclusion of a third dimension in cancer models allows researchers to zoom out from a significant but limited cancer cell research approach to a wider investigation of the tumor microenvironment. This model can include multiple cell types and many elements from the extracellular matrix (ECM), which provides mechanical support for the tissue, mediates cell-microenvironment interactions, and plays a key role in cancer cell invasion. Both biochemical and biophysical signals from the extracellular space strongly influence cell fate, the epigenetic landscape, and gene expression. Specifically, a detailed mechanistic understanding of tumor cell-ECM interactions, especially during cancer invasion, is lacking. In this review, we focus on the latest achievements in the study of ECM biomechanics and mechanosensing in cancer on 3D scaffold-based and scaffold-free models, focusing on each platform’s level of complexity, up-to-date mechanical tests performed, limitations, and potential for further improvements.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number10098
JournalInternational journal of molecular sciences
Issue number18
StatePublished - Sep 2021


  • 3D model
  • Biomaterials
  • Cancer
  • Mechanics
  • Mechanosensing
  • Microenvironment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Catalysis
  • Molecular Biology
  • Spectroscopy
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Organic Chemistry
  • Inorganic Chemistry


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