Biomimetic strategies to recapitulate organ specific microenvironments for studying breast cancer metastasis

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The progression of breast cancer from the primary tumor setting to the metastatic setting is the critical event defining Stage IV disease, no longer considered curable. The microenvironment at specific organ sites is known to play a key role in influencing the ultimate fate of metastatic cells; yet microenvironmental mediated-molecular mechanisms underlying organ specific metastasis in breast cancer are not well understood. This review discusses biomimetic strategies employed to recapitulate metastatic organ microenvironments, particularly, bone, liver, lung and brain to elucidate the mechanisms dictating metastatic breast cancer cell homing and colonization. These biomimetic strategies includein vitrotechniques such as biomaterial-based co-culturing techniques, microfluidics, organ-mimetic chips, bioreactor technologies, and decellularized matrices as well as cutting edgein vivotechniques to better understand the interactions between metastatic breast cancer cells and the stroma at the metastatic site. The advantages and disadvantages of these systems are discussed. In addition, how creation of biomimetic models will impact breast cancer metastasis research and their broad utility is explored.

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