2.2 million cases of breast cancer were identified in 2020 by the WHO. This cancer is the first cause of cancer in women. It develops in the glandular lobes or milk ducts. Five subtypes of breast cancer have been defined but their origin is not yet determined. The heterogeneity of this cancer complicates the search for a treatment. Xenograft mouse models or genetically modified mice are used for preclinical testing. Only 8% of drug candidates are effective in the clinical phase. These figures highlight the limitations of preclinical in vivo models.
In the case of the 3Rs principle and with the idea of finding alternatives that are more faithful to human physiology, in vitro methods have become relevant. The 2D models based on the culture of cell lines, stem cells or primary culture quickly showed their limits.
Organoids, because of their three-dimensional design, allow to get closer to human physiology. They can be designed from cell lines recovered from biopsies. They offer a better understanding of cell-ECM interactions and of the impact of the microenvironment in the resistance of certain patients to a treatment. Variations in the composition of certain matrices or the absence of an immune system are some of the limitations of these models.
Finally, microfluidic technology allows the simulation of blood circulation and the monitoring of cell invasiveness. The connection of organ-on-a-chip of different natures offers a global view of the potential impact of the drug on close and healthy organs. It should be noted that the design of the microfluidic chips contains material (often, PDMS) that can adsorb hydrophobic molecules and whose design is specific to each laboratory.
In this context, BIOMIMESYS® matrix from HCS Pharma is a very promising alternative to animal testing in oncology. It is a hyaluronic acid-based matrix bio-functionalized with other components of the extracellular matrix. Its composition and stiffness can be adapted to each organ in health and disease, like in cancer. It combines both the advantages of hydrogels and solid scaffolds, providing a physiological cell culture microenvironment reproducing all aspects of human tissues, including matrix architecture, cellular organization, cell-cell and cell-matrix interactions. Moreover, BIOMIMESYS® is available in multi-well plate compatible for screening, and is also compatible with microfluidic chips.
Feel free to contact us if you want more information about BIOMIMESYS® matrix or about our services in pharmacological assessments in 3D by cellular imaging!
We thank Charlotte Prost, student in Biotech master in AgroParisTech (Paris), for her very interesting bibliographic report about “Human in vitro models as an alternative to animal experimentation. Case study: breast cancer“, in collaboration with HCS Pharma.