Translational research is essential to find new therapeutic approaches to improve cancer patient survival. Despite extensive efforts in preclinical studies, many novel therapies fail to turn out to be translational from bench to beside. Therefore, new models better reflecting the conditions in vivo are needed to generate results, which transfer reliably into the clinic. The use of three-dimensional (3D) cell culture models has provided new emerging insights into the understanding of cellular behavior upon cancer therapies. Interestingly, cells cultured in a 3D extracellular matrix are more radio- and chemoresistant than cells grown under conventional 2D conditions. In this review, we summarize and discuss underlying mechanisms of this phenomenon including integrin-mediated cell-matrix interactions, cell shape, nuclear organization and chromatin structure. Identifying the molecular differences between 2D and 3D cultured cells will offer the opportunity to improve our research and widen our therapeutic possibilities against cancer.
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