In this study, we investigate a novel in vitro model to mimic heterogeneous breast tumors without the use of a scaffold while allowing for cell-cell and tumor-fibroblast interactions. Previous studies have shown that magnetic levitation system under conventional culturing conditions results in the formation of three-dimensional (3D) structures, closely resembling in vivo tissues (fat tissue, vasculature, etc.). Three-dimensional heterogeneous tumor models for breast cancer were designed to effectively model the influences of the tumor microenvironment on drug efficiency. Various breast cancer cells were co-cultured with fibroblasts and then magnetically levitated. Size and cell density of the resulting tumors were measured. The model was phenotypically compared to in vivo tumors and examined for the presence of ECM proteins. Lastly, the effects of tumor stroma in the 3D in vitro model on drug transport and efficiency were assessed. Our data suggest that the proposed 3D in vitro breast tumor is advantageous due to the ability to: (1) form large-sized (millimeter in diameter) breast tumor models within 24 h; (2) control tumor cell composition and density; (3) accurately mimic the in vivo tumor microenvironment; and (4) test drug efficiency in an in vitro model that is comparable to in vivo tumors.
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