Funded project summary:
Dr Eirini Velliou’s team at the University of Surrey was recently awarded £57,906 to take the following project forward:
On the design of a biomimetic 3D printed metastasis prototype of primary ovarian cancer – towards personalised healthcare
Ovarian cancer is a silent gynecological killer with late stage diagnosis, relatively low survival rate, high resistance to chemotherapy and high recurrence rate. While research is being conducted to answer, and solve many of its associated problems, the lack of a robust, high throughput in vitro model for the disease and its metastasis puts a dent on research success.
Most studies for ovarian cancer use either animal models or simplistic 2D cell culture systems. However, animal studies are expensive, difficult to reproduce and have ethical issues associated with their use. At the same time, 2D models are unable to mimic the complexities of the human body in terms of cellular arrangement, presence 3D structure, cell- cell and cell-matrix interactions, interstitial flow etc. Tissue engineering and the emerging of 3D tissue culture models can mitigate many of the problems associated with animal models and 2D cell culture. 3D models provide a 3-dimensional growth environment able to mimic spatially and biochemically an actual tissue, they allow for cell-cell and cell-Extracellular Matrix (ECM) interactions, they provide structural integrity and can be incorporated in bioreactors to mimic the interstitial flow. Additionally, they are less expensive and devoid of ethical challenges associated with animal models.
Due to the above benefits, researchers have started using 3D models for ovarian cancer research. However, most models are single cell based and do not capture the biological complexity of a real tumour. Furthermore, the models of omentum, which is the primary metastasis site, are also relatively simplistic and do not capture the complexity of the organ. Overall, to date, there is no model of ovarian cancer that integrates the complex tumour biological structure coupled with a robust omentum structure. Here, we aim to bridge that gap via developing for the first time a robust dynamic multicellular model of a human primary ovarian tumour and its primary metastasis site (omentum). This novel model involves multicellular tumour aggregates from fresh human ovarian cancer tissue coupled with a complete omentum model.
For the integrated model development, a multidisciplinary group of scientists will work together using human derived tissues and techniques such as 3D-printing, novel materials and bioreactors to mimic the interstitial flow. The model will enable advanced studies on the disease progression, treatment response as well as the screening of novel treatment methods. Therefore, it will be of benefit to clinicians, academics and the industry. Most importantly, it will facilitate faster development of personalised treatment protocols, accelerating appropriate individualized therapies for the disease from bench to bedside.