• Open Access

Translating tissue engineering technology platforms into cancer research


Correspondence to: Prof. Dr. Raymund E. HORCH, Department of Plastic and Hand Surgery, Laboratory of Tissue Engineering and Regenertative Medicine, University of Erlangen-Nuernberg, Krankenhausstrasse 12, D-91054 Erlangen, Germany.
Tel.: +49 9131 8533277
Fax: +49 9131 8539327
E-mail: Raymund.horch@uk-erlangen.de


  • • Introduction
  • • History of tissue engineering
  • • Physiological and structural aspects of 2D versus 3D culture in cancer research
  • • State of the art of 3D culture systems in cancer research
  • • New tissue engineering-routed scaffolds for 3D culture
  • • Endothelial progenitor cells and tumour vasculature
  • • In vivo models
  • • Arteriovenous loop isolation chamber for tumour angiogenesis research
  • • Conclusion

Technology platforms originally developed for tissue engineering applications produce valuable models that mimic three-dimensional (3D) tissue organization and function to enhance the understanding of cell/tissue function under normal and pathological situations. These models show that when replicating physiological and pathological conditions as closely as possible investigators are allowed to probe the basic mechanisms of morphogenesis, differentiation and cancer. Significant efforts investigating angiogenetic processes and factors in tumorigenesis are currently undertaken to establish ways of targeting angiogenesis in tumours. Anti-angiogenic agents have been accepted for clinical application as attractive targeted therapeutics for the treatment of cancer. Combining the areas of tumour angiogenesis, combination therapies and drug delivery systems is therefore closely related to the understanding of the basic principles that are applied in tissue engineering models. Studies with 3D model systems have repeatedly identified complex interacting roles of matrix stiffness and composition, integrins, growth factor receptors and signalling in development and cancer. These insights suggest that plasticity, regulation and suppression of these processes can provide strategies and therapeutic targets for future cancer therapies. The historical perspective of the fields of tissue engineering and controlled release of therapeutics, including inhibitors of angiogenesis in tumours is becoming clearly evident as a major future advance in merging these fields. New delivery systems are expected to greatly enhance the ability to deliver drugs locally and in therapeutic concentrations to relevant sites in living organisms. Investigating the phenomena of angiogenesis and anti-angiogenesis in 3D in vivo models such as the Arterio-Venous (AV) loop mode in a separated and isolated chamber within a living organism adds another significant horizon to this perspective and opens new modalities for translational research in this field.