Mechanomimetic 3D Scaffolds as a Humanized In Vitro Model for Ovarian Cancer

Francesca Paradiso, Stefania Lenna, S. Andrea Gazze, Jezabel Garcia Parra, Kate Murphy, Lavinia Margarit, Deyarina Gonzalez, Lewis Francis, Francesca Taraballi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


The mechanical homeostasis of tissues can be altered in response to trauma or disease, such as cancer, resulting in altered mechanotransduction pathways that have been shown to impact tumor development, progression, and the efficacy of therapeutic approaches. Specifically, ovarian cancer progression is parallel to an increase in tissue stiffness and fibrosis. With in vivo models proving difficult to study, tying tissue mechanics to altered cellular and molecular properties necessitate advanced, tunable, in vitro 3D models able to mimic normal and tumor mechanic features. First, we characterized normal human ovary and high-grade serous (HGSC) ovarian cancer tissue stiffness to precisely mimic their mechanical features on collagen I-based sponge scaffolds, soft (NS) and stiff (MS), respectively. We utilized three ovarian cancer cell lines (OVCAR-3, Caov-3, and SKOV3) to evaluate changes in viability, morphology, proliferation, and sensitivity to doxorubicin and liposomal doxorubicin treatment in response to a mechanically different microenvironment. High substrate stiffness promoted the proliferation of Caov-3 and SKOV3 cells without changing their morphology, and upregulated mechanosensors YAP/TAZ only in SKOV3 cells. After 7 days in culture, both OVCAR3 and SKOV3 decreased the MS scaffold storage modulus (stiffness), sug-gesting a link between cell proliferation and the softening of the matrix. Finally, high matrix stiffness resulted in higher OVCAR-3 and SKOV3 cell cytotoxicity in response to doxorubicin. This study demonstrates the promise of biomimetic porous scaffolds for effective inclusion of mechanical parameters in 3D cancer modeling. Furthermore, this work establishes the use of porous scaffolds for studying ovarian cancer cells response to mechanical changes in the microenvironment and as a meaningful platform from which to investigate chemoresistance and drug response.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number824
Issue number5
StatePublished - Feb 26 2022


  • 3D model
  • Cancer
  • Collagen
  • Doxorubicin
  • Extracellular matrix
  • Matrix stiffness
  • Microenvironment
  • Nanoparticles
  • Extracellular Matrix/metabolism
  • Humans
  • Tumor Microenvironment
  • Mechanotransduction, Cellular
  • Ovarian Neoplasms/drug therapy
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Female
  • Apoptosis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)


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