The tumor microenvironment (TME) is gaining increasing attention in oncology, as it is recognized to be functionally important during tumor development and progression. Tumors are heterogeneous tissues that, in addition to tumor cells, contain tumor-associated cell types such as immune cells, fibroblasts, and endothelial cells. These other cells, together with the specific extracellular matrix (ECM), create a permissive environment for tumor growth. While the influence of tumor-infiltrating cells and mechanical properties of the ECM in tumor invasion and progression have been studied separately, their interaction within the complex TME and the epithelial -to-mesenchymal transition (EMT) is still unclear. In this work, we develop a 3D co-culture model of lung adenocarcinoma cells and macrophages in an interpenetrating network hydrogel, to investigate the influence of the macrophage phenotype and ECM stiffness in the induction of EMT. Rising ECM stiffness increases both tumor cell proliferation and invasiveness. The presence of tumor-associated macrophages and the ECM stiffness jointly contribute to an invasive phenotype, and modulate the expression of key EMT-related markers. Overall, these findings support the utility of in vitro 3D cancer models that allow one to study interactions among key components of the TME.
The publications shown here are the articles indexed by PubMed, not the complete list of the lab's publications.