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Lung cancer research gets a breath of fresh air

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Joshua Herbert
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(Boston) -- Cancer researchers have come to understand that generating human tumors in mice by injecting cancer cell lines under the skin does not recapitulate how tumors normally emerge and spread to specific organs in the human body, nor how they respond to anti-cancer drugs.

So, they turned to injecting tumor cells at the organ sites where they originated from in humans, so-called 'orthotopic' sites.

Orthotopic tumors, such as those created by injecting breast cancers into the mammary fat pads of mice, exhibit growth and metastatic behaviors more like those seen in patients, however, these organ environments are still not human.

It is also not possible to visualize how tumor cells grow, move and respond to therapeutics in these orthotopic animal models, which restricts our ability to understand how different organ microenvironments influence tumor behavior and thereby develop better drugs.

Like in the human lung, the resulting small airway epithelium is thicker, stiffer and covered with moving cilia, while the thinner alveolar epithelium is more permeable to enable efficient gas exchange and it is exposed to cyclic mechanical deformations to mimic breathing motions in the chip.

The researchers continuously stream cell culture medium through the vascular channel to support the epithelial and endothelial cell layers over many weeks as occurs with blood-flow in living lung.

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Joshua Herbert
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