Glioblastoma (GBM) is the most aggressive and common form of primary brain cancer. Several decades of research have provided great insight into GBM progression; however, the prognosis remains poor, with a median patient survival time of ~15 months. The tumour microenvironment (TME) of GBM plays a crucial role in mediating tumour progression and thus is being explored as a therapeutic target. Progress in the development of treatments targeting the TME is currently limited by a lack of model systems that can accurately recreate the distinct extracellular matrix composition and anatomic features of the brain, such as the blood–brain barrier and axonal tracts. Biomaterials can be applied to develop synthetic models of the GBM TME to mimic physiological and pathophysiological features of the brain, including cellular and extracellular matrix composition, mechanical properties and topography. In this Review, we summarize key features of the GBM microenvironment and discuss different strategies for the engineering of GBM TME models, including 2D and 3D models featuring chemical and mechanical gradients, interfaces and fluid flow. Finally, we highlight the potential of engineered TME models as platforms for mechanistic discovery and drug screening, as well as preclinical testing and precision medicine.
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The authors gratefully acknowledge financial support from the National Science Foundation (Graduate Research Fellowship to K.J.W.) and the National Institutes of Health (Ruth L. Kirschstein Predoctoral Individual National Research Service Award F31CA228317 to K.J.W.; Ruth L. Kirschstein Postdoctoral Individual National Research Service Award F32CA221366 to J.C.; R21EB025017, R01GM122375 and R01DK118940 to S.K.; and R01CA227136 to M.K.A. and S.K.). J.D.C. has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement no. 752097.
The authors declare no competing financial interests.
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