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