Journal of Cancer Stem Cell Research
Development of effective novel anti-tumor treatments will require improved in vitro models that incorporate physiologic microenvironments and maintain intratumoral heterogeneity, including tumor initiating cells. Brain tumor initiating cells (BTIC) are a target for cancer therapy, because BTICs are highly tumorigenic and contribute to tumor angiogenesis, invasion, and therapeutic resistance. Current leading studies rely on BTIC isolation from patient-derived xenografts followed by propagation as neurospheres. As this process is expensive and time-consuming, we determined whether three-dimensional microtumors were an alternative in vitro method for modeling tumor growth via BITC maintenance and/or enrichment. Brain tumor cells were grown as neurospheres or as microtumors produced using the human-derived biomatrix HuBiogelTM and maintained with physiologically relevant microenvironments. BITC percentages were determined using cell surface marker expression, label retention, and neurosphere formation capacity. Our data demonstrate that expansion of brain tumor cells as hypoxic and nutrientrestricted microtumors significantly increased the percentage of both CD133C and CFSEhigh cells. We further demonstrate that BTIC-marker positive cells isolated from microtumors maintained neurosphere formation capacity in the in vitro limiting dilution assay and tumorigenic potential in vivo. These data demonstrate that microtumors can be a useful three dimensional biological model for the study of BTIC maintenance and targeting.