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Cancer Research

3-D Cell Culture System for Studying Invasion and Evaluating Therapeutics in Bladder Cancer

Published: September 13th, 2018



1Departments of Internal Medicine, Hematology/Oncology Division, Rogel Cancer Center, University of Michigan Medical Center, 2Department of Urology, Division of GU Oncology, Rogel Cancer Center, University of Michigan Medical Center, 3Departments of Surgery and Pathology, Perlmutter Cancer Center, NYU Langone Health

The processes governing bladder cancer invasion represent opportunities for biomarker and therapeutic development. Here we present a bladder cancer invasion model which incorporates 3-D culture of tumor spheroids, time-lapse imaging and confocal microscopy. This technique is useful for defining the features of the invasive process and for screening therapeutic agents.

Bladder cancer is a significant health problem. It is estimated that more than 16,000 people will die this year in the United States from bladder cancer. While 75% of bladder cancers are non-invasive and unlikely to metastasize, about 25% progress to an invasive growth pattern. Up to half of the patients with invasive cancers will develop lethal metastatic relapse. Thus, understanding the mechanism of invasive progression in bladder cancer is crucial to predict patient outcomes and prevent lethal metastases. In this article, we present a three-dimensional cancer invasion model which allows incorporation of tumor cells and stromal components to mimic in vivo conditions occurring in the bladder tumor microenvironment. This model provides the opportunity to observe the invasive process in real time using time-lapse imaging, interrogate the molecular pathways involved using confocal immunofluorescent imaging and screen compounds with the potential to block invasion. While this protocol focuses on bladder cancer, it is likely that similar methods could be used to examine invasion and motility in other tumor types as well.

Invasion is a critical step in cancer progression, which is required for metastasis, and is associated with lower survival and poor prognosis in patients. In human bladder cancer, the most common malignancy of the urinary tract which causes about 165,000 deaths per year worldwide, cancer stage, treatment and prognosis are directly related to the presence or absence of invasion1. Around 75% of the cases of bladder cancer are non-muscle invasive and are managed with local resection. In contrast, muscle-invasive bladder cancers (about 25% of all cases) are aggressive tumors with high metastatic rates and are treated with aggressive multimodality t....

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1. Growing Cancer Spheroids

  1. Growing from cell lines
    1. Culture human bladder cancer cells under conventional adherent cell culture conditions and maintain in a 37 °C incubator supplied with 5% CO2. Maintain cells at <90% confluency.
      NOTE: Culture media used is Dulbecco's modified minimum essential media (DMEM) containing 4.5 g/L D-glucose, L-Glutamine, 110 mg/L sodium pyruvate, and supplied with 10% fetal bovine serum (FBS) throughout this protocol.

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Successful creation of invasive bladder cancer tumor spheroid requires the formation of appropriately sized tumor spheroids from cell lines or primary tumors. Figure 2A shows appropriately sized spheroids developed from four human bladder cancer cell lines (UM-UC9, UM-UC13, UM-UC14, 253J, and UM-UC18). Figure 2B shows a tumor spheroid from a BBN-generated mouse bladder tumor embedded in collagen .......

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Here we describe a 3-D tumor spheroid model that allows real-time observation of bladder cancer invasion which is critical for cancer progression and metastasis. This system is amenable to the incorporation of various stromal and cellular components to allow investigators to better recapitulate the tissue microenvironment where bladder cancer invasion takes place. Bladder cancer spheroids can be generated from various sources such as cell lines (including genetically modified cell lines useful for the examination of sign.......

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The authors would like to thank the laboratory of Dr. Howard Crawford (University of Michigan) for technical support and providing materials and equipment for this study, and Alan Kelleher for technical support.

This work was funded by grants from the University of Michigan Rogel Cancer Center Core Grant CA046592-26S3, NIH K08 CA201335-01A1 (PLP), BCAN YIA (PLP), NIH R01 CA17483601A1 (DMS).


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Name Company Catalog Number Comments
Human bladder cancer cell lines UM-UC9, UM-UC13, UM-UC14, UM-UC18, 253J
DMEM cell culture medium Thermo Fisher Scientific 11995065
Fetal bovine serum  Thermo Fisher Scientific 26140079
Antibiotic-Antimycotic (100X) Thermo Fisher Scientific 15240062
Trypsin-EDTA (0.25%), phenol red Thermo Fisher Scientific 25200056
Bovine serum albumin (BSA) Sigma-Aldrich A3803
Phosphate-buffered saline (PBS), pH 7.4  Thermo Fisher Scientific 10010023
Costar Ultral-low attachment 6-well cluster  Corning 3471
Conventional inverted microscope  Carl Zeiss 491206-0001-000 General use for cell culture and checking spheroids
Collagen type 1 from rat tail, high concentration  Corning 354249
Nunc Lab-Tek II Chambered Coverglass Thermo Fisher Scientific 155382
Confocal microscope  Carl Zeiss LSM800 A confocal miscoscope with climate chamber, multi-location imaging, and Z-stack scanning function 
Cryostat micromtome Leica Biosystems CM3050 S
Zen 2 Image processing software  Carl Zeiss
Paraformaldehyde solution Electron Microscopy Sciences 15710
ImmEdge Hydrophobic Barrier PAP Pen Vector Laboratories  H4000
O.C.T compound  Thermo Fisher Scientific 23730571
Hoechst 33342 solution  Thermo Fisher Scientific 62249
Anti-ATDC (Trim29) antibody Sigma-Aldrich HPA020053
Anti-Cytokeratin 14 antibody Abcam ab7800
Anti-Vimentin antibody Abcam ab24525
ProLong Diamond  Mounting medium

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