Kelsey F. Ruud, William C. Hiscox, Ilhan Yu, Roland K. Chen & Weimin Li
Breast cancer cells invading the connective tissues outside the mammary lobule or duct immerse in a reservoir of extracellular matrix (ECM) that is structurally and biochemically distinct from that of their site of origin. The ECM is a spatial network of matrix proteins, which not only provide physical support but also serve as bioactive ligands to the cells. It becomes evident that the dimensional, mechanical, structural, and biochemical properties of ECM are all essential mediators of many cellular functions. To better understand breast cancer development and cancer cell biology in native tissue environment, various tissue-mimicking culture models such as hydrogel have been developed. Collagen I (Col I) and Matrigel are the most common hydrogels used in cancer research and have opened opportunities for addressing biological questions beyond the two-dimensional (2D) cell cultures. Yet, it remains unclear whether these broadly used hydrogels can recapitulate the environmental properties of tissue ECM, and whether breast cancer cells grown on CoI I or Matrigel display similar phenotypes as they would on their native ECM.
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