Methods for co-culturing tumour and endothelial cells: systems and their applications

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Abstract

Objectives

The high levels of morbidity and mortality associated with cancer can be attributed to two main processes; the tumour's ability to rapidly proliferate and the process of metastasis. These key processes are facilitated by tumour-induced angiogenesis, which causes existing blood vessels to branch off and actively grow towards the tumour providing it with the nutrients and oxygen required for growth and the avenue through which it can metastasise to invade other tissues. This process involves complex interactions between tumour and endothelial cells and is at the forefront of modern biomedical research as anti-angiogenic therapies may hold the key to preventing tumour growth and spread. This review looks at modern co-culture systems used in the study of the tumour–endothelial cell relationship highlighting the applications and weaknesses of each model and analysing their uses in various tumour–endothelial cell investigations.

Key findings

The tumour–endothelial cell relationship can be studied in vitro using co-culture systems that involve growing endothelial and tumour cells together so that the effects of dynamic interaction (either by direct cell contact or molecular cross-talk) can be monitored. These co-culture assays are quite accurate indicators of in-vivo growth and therefore allow more effective trialling of therapeutic treatments.

Conclusions

The application of co-culture systems are of fundamental importance to understanding the tumour–endothelial cell relationship as they offer a method of in-vitro testing that is highly indicative of in-vivo processes. Co-cultures allow accurate testing, which is cost effective and therefore can be utilised in almost all laboratories, is reproducible and technically simple to perform and most importantly has biological relevancy. The importance of this form of testing is such that it warrants further investment of both time and money to enhance the methodology such as to eliminate some of the levels of variability.

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