Metastasis in a dish

Tian, X. et al. Nat. Biomed. Eng. 2, 443–452 (2018).

The greatest damage from cancer usually results from its spread to other sites in the body. Metastases behave differently than primary tumors because of local cues from their new environment. Most in vitro methods lack this organ specificity, but Tian et al. have developed a culture system that uses decellularized tissue to model the metastatic niche. The researchers borrowed a perfusion-based method to chemically remove cells from rodent tissue, leaving behind nearly all of the extracellular matrix components. They found that four human colorectal cancer cell lines cultured on decellularized rat lung and liver scaffolds, representing the most common sites of metastases, formed large three-dimensional colonies. Compared with cells grown on plastic, collagen or Matrigel, scaffold-grown colonies exhibited growth and histology more similar to those of in vivo metastases. They also grew better when transplanted to the corresponding organ in a living mouse, and displayed organ-specific responses to chemotherapy and radiotherapy. TN

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to Tal Nawy.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Nawy, T. Metastasis in a dish. Nat Methods 15, 482 (2018).

Download citation


Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing