An omentum-inspired 3D PEG hydrogel for identifying ECM-drivers of drug resistant ovarian cancer

APL Bioeng. 2019 Jun 26;3(2):026106. doi: 10.1063/1.5091713. eCollection 2019 Jun.


Ovarian cancer (OvCa) is a challenging disease to treat due to poor screening techniques and late diagnosis. There is an urgent need for additional therapy options, as patients recur in 70% of cases. The limited availability of clinical treatment options could be a result of poor predictions in early stage drug screens on standard tissue culture polystyrene (TCPS). TCPS does not capture the mechanical and biochemical cues that cells experience in vivo, which can impact how cells will respond to a drug. Therefore, an in vitro model that captures some of the microenvironment features that the cells experience in vivo could provide better insights into drug responses. In this study, we formed 3D multicellular tumor spheroids (MCTS) in microwells and encapsulated them in 3D omentum-inspired hydrogels. SKOV-3 MCTS were resistant to Paclitaxel in our 3D hydrogels compared to a monolayer on TCPS. Toward clinical application, we tested cells from patients [ovarian carcinoma ascites spheroids (OCAS)] who had been treated with Paclitaxel, and drug responses predicted by using the 3D omentum-inspired hydrogels demonstrated the lack of the Paclitaxel response of these samples. Additionally, we observed the presence of collagen production around the encapsulated SKOV-3 MCTS, but not significantly on TCPS. Our results demonstrated that our 3D omentum-inspired hydrogel is an improved in vitro drug testing platform to study the OvCa drug response for patient-derived cells and helped us identify collagen 3 as a potential driver of Paclitaxel resistance in 3D.