American Association for Cancer Research

A New 3D Model System Developed to Mimic Mechanical Aspects of Pancreatic Cancer

The scar-like fibrous tumor microenvironment known as desmoplasia is believed to be a major player in the progression of pancreatic cancer, yet its underlying biology and biomechanical influences remain poorly understood. Researchers recently presented a new multidisciplinary approach using a 3D human tissue mimetic model to study how human pancreatic fibrous extracellular matrices (ECMs) interact with pancreatic cancer cells displaying common pancreatic cancer mutations, such as lack of p53 and constitutively active KRAS.

Ruchi-Malik-revThey combined cell-derived ECM and bioengineered materials with tunable stiffnesses mimicking the mechanical and chemical properties of pancreatic desmoplasia and compared them to ones found in this organ under non-cancerous conditions. Cells respond to specific biomechanical as well as biochemical properties of the various ECMs by changing specific intracellular signal transduction pathways that lead to alterations in cancer cell behaviors such as accelerated growth. The findings were presented by Ruchi Malik, PhD, a postdoctoral research associate at Fox Chase Cancer Center and Temple University, during the 2015 AACR Annual Meeting in Philadelphia.

The research constitutes a collaboration between the laboratories of Edna Cukierman, PhD, associate professor at Fox Chase and Peter Lelkes, PhD, professor and chair of bioengineering at Temple.