Theranostics. 2020 Oct 26;10(26):12127-12143. doi: 10.7150/thno.52450. eCollection 2020.
Rationale: The tumor microenvironment (TME) determines tumor progression and affects clinical therapy. Its basic components include cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAFs) and tumor-associated endothelial cells (TECs), both of which constitute the tumor matrix and microvascular network. The ability to simulate interactions between cells and extracellular matrix in a TME in vitro can assist the elucidation of cancer growth and evaluate the efficiency of therapies. Methods: In the present study, an in vitro 3D model of tumor tissue that mimicked in vivo cell physiological function was developed using tumor-associated stromal cells. Colorectal cancer cells, CAFs, and TECs were co-cultured on 3D-printed scaffolds so as to constitute an extracellular matrix (ECM) that allowed cell processes such as adhesion, stemness, proliferation, and vascularization to take place. Normal stromal cells were activated and reprogrammed into tumor-related stromal cells to construct a TME of tumor tissues. Results: The activated stromal cells overexpressed a variety of tumor-related markers and remodeled the ECM. Furthermore, the metabolic signals and malignant transformation of the in vitro 3D tumor tissue was substantially similar to that observed in tumors in vivo. Conclusions: The 3D tumor tissue exhibited physiological activity with high drug resistance. The model is suitable for research studies of tumor biology and the development of personalized treatments for cancer.