A microfluidic 3D in vitro model for specificity of breast cancer metastasis to bone

Biomaterials. 2014 Mar;35(8):2454-61. doi: 10.1016/j.biomaterials.2013.11.050. Epub 2013 Dec 31.


Cancer metastases arise following extravasation of circulating tumor cells with certain tumors exhibiting high organ specificity. Here, we developed a 3D microfluidic model to analyze the specificity of human breast cancer metastases to bone, recreating a vascularized osteo-cell conditioned microenvironment with human osteo-differentiated bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stem cells and endothelial cells. The tri-culture system allowed us to study the transendothelial migration of highly metastatic breast cancer cells and to monitor their behavior within the bone-like matrix. Extravasation, quantified 24 h after cancer cell injection, was significantly higher in the osteo-cell conditioned microenvironment compared to collagen gel-only matrices (77.5 ± 3.7% vs. 37.6 ± 7.3%), and the migration distance was also significantly greater (50.8 ± 6.2 μm vs. 31.8 ± 5.0 μm). Extravasated cells proliferated to form micrometastases of various sizes containing 4 to more than 60 cells by day 5. We demonstrated that the breast cancer cell receptor CXCR2 and the bone-secreted chemokine CXCL5 play a major role in the extravasation process, influencing extravasation rate and traveled distance. Our study provides novel 3D in vitro quantitative data on extravasation and micrometastasis generation of breast cancer cells within a bone-like microenvironment and demonstrates the potential value of microfluidic systems to better understand cancer biology and screen for new therapeutics.

Keywords: Bone; Breast cancer; Extravasation; Hydrogel; Metastasis; Microfluidics.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Bone Marrow Cells / metabolism
  • Bone Neoplasms / secondary*
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Chemokine CXCL5 / genetics
  • Chemokine CXCL5 / metabolism
  • Collagen / metabolism
  • Female
  • Fluorescent Antibody Technique
  • Humans
  • Mesenchymal Stem Cells / metabolism
  • Microfluidics / methods*
  • Receptors, Interleukin-8B / genetics
  • Receptors, Interleukin-8B / metabolism


  • CXCL5 protein, human
  • Chemokine CXCL5
  • Receptors, Interleukin-8B
  • Collagen