A novel organotypic model mimics the tumor microenvironment

Am J Pathol. 2009 Sep;175(3):1281-91. doi: 10.2353/ajpath.2009.081110. Epub 2009 Aug 13.


Carcinoma cell invasion is traditionally studied in three-dimensional organotypic models composed of type I collagen and fibroblasts. However, carcinoma cell behavior is affected by the various cell types and the extracellular matrix (ECM) in the tumor microenvironment. In this study, a novel organotypic model based on human uterine leiomyoma tissue was established and characterized to create a more authentic environment for carcinoma cells. Human tongue squamous cell carcinoma cells (HSC-3) were cultured on top of either collagen or myoma. Organotypic sections were examined by immunohistochemistry and in situ hybridization. The maximal invasion depth of HSC-3 cells was markedly increased in myomas compared with collagen. In myomas, various cell types and ECM components were present, and the HSC-3 cells only expressed ECM molecules in the myoma model. Organotypic media were analyzed by radioimmunoassay, zymography, or Western blotting. During carcinoma cell invasion, matrix metalloprotease-9 production and collagen degradation were enhanced particularly in the myoma model. To evaluate the general applicability of the myoma model, several oral carcinoma, breast carcinoma, and melanoma cell lines were cultured on myomas and found to invade in highly distinct patterns. We conclude that myoma tissue mimics the native tumor microenvironment better than previous organotypic models and possibly enhances epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition. Thus, the myoma model provides a promising tool for analyzing the behavior of carcinoma cells.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / metabolism
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / pathology*
  • Cell Communication*
  • Coculture Techniques
  • Collagen
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Leiomyoma / metabolism
  • Leiomyoma / pathology*
  • Matrix Metalloproteinase 9 / biosynthesis
  • Melanoma / pathology
  • Models, Biological*
  • Mouth Neoplasms / pathology
  • Neoplasm Invasiveness
  • Organ Culture Techniques
  • Tongue Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Tongue Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Uterine Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Uterine Neoplasms / pathology*


  • Collagen
  • Matrix Metalloproteinase 9