Today it is widely accepted that molecular mechanisms triggering cancer initiate with a genetic modification. However, a genetic alteration providing the aberrant clone with a growing advantage over neighboring cells is not sufficient to develop cancer. Currently, tumors are considered a heterogeneous population of cells and an extracellular matrix (ECM) that make up a characteristic microenvironment. Interactions between tumor cells and cancer microenvironment define cancer progression and therapeutic response. To investigate and clarify the role of ECM in the regulation of cancer cell behavior and response to therapy, the decellularization of ECM, a widely used technique in tissue engineering, has been recently employed to develop 3D culture model of disease. In this review, we briefly explore the different components of healthy and pathological ECM and the methods to obtain and characterize the ECM from native bioptic tissue. Finally, we highlight the most relevant applications of ECM in translational cancer research strategies: decellularized ECM, ECM-hydrogel and 3D bioprinting.
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The authors thank Dr. Milvia Chicca for revising the preliminary manuscript and providing suggestions. Figure 1 was designed by Freepik (https://it.freepik.com). This work was supported by the “Department of excellence 2018–2022” initiative of the Italian Ministry of education (MIUR) awarded to the Department of Neuroscience of the University of Padua; Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio di Padova e Rovigo (CARIPARO) Pediatric Research; AIRC Investigator Grant: 19104; Program; LIFELAB Program, Veneto Region; Università degli Studi di Padova, Budget Integrato per la Ricerca dei Dipartimenti: BIRD199592.
The authors declare no competing interests.
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Gentilin, E., D’Angelo, E., Agostini, M. et al. Decellularized normal and cancer tissues as tools for cancer research. Cancer Gene Ther 29, 879–888 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41417-021-00398-2