Hydrogel-based colorectal cancer organoid co-culture models

Acta Biomater. 2021 Sep 15;132:461-472. doi: 10.1016/j.actbio.2020.12.037. Epub 2020 Dec 31.

Abstract

The lack of cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAFs) in patient-derived organoid (PDO) models is a major limitation as CAFs contribute to tumor progression and drug resistance. In the present study, we addressed this problem by establishing in vitro conditions that enable the co-culture of colorectal cancer (CRC) PDO with patient-derived CAFs. Considering that the CRC extracellular matrix is high in hyaluronan and collagen I, we hypothesized that hyaluronan-gelatin hydrogels may serve as a suitable alternative 3D matrix to traditionally used basement membrane extracts to support the co-culture of CRC PDO and CAFs. We report the development of in vitro models consisting of CRC PDO encapsulated within a well-defined three-dimensional (3D) hyaluronan-gelatin hydrogel and co-cultured with patient-derived CAFs. Through RNA- and whole -exome sequencing, we first show that these hydrogels are capable of maintaining key molecular characteristics of the original patient tumors in CRC PDO but not support the culture of CAFs. Further, based on our findings that CRC PDO culture medium poorly supports CAF viability, we developed a co-culture strategy that maintains the viability of both CRC PDO and CAFs. We found that even in the absence of growth factors conventionally used to support CRC PDO culture, CAFs were able to maintain the proliferation of the cultured CRC PDO in the hydrogels and restore distinct biological pathways absent in the PDO culture alone but present in patient tissues. Lastly, we demonstrate that these CRC PDO-CAFs co-culture models are suitable for evaluating standard-of-care drugs, making them potentially very useful for realizing personalized cancer medicine. STATEMENT OF SIGNIFICANCE: We report the development of an engineered tumor microenvironment consisting of colorectal cancer patient-derived organoids (CRC PDO) encapsulated within a well-defined three-dimensional (3D) hyaluronan-gelatin hydrogel and co-cultured with patient-derived cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAFs). Through sequential culture, we found that in the absence of growth factors added to the co-culture, CAFs were able to maintain the proliferation of the cultured CRC PDO in the hydrogels and restore distinct biological pathways absent in the PDO culture alone but present in patient tissues. Lastly, we demonstrate that these CRC PDO-CAFs models are suitable for evaluating standard-of-care drugs, making them potentially very useful for realizing personalized cancer medicine.

Keywords: Cancer-associated fibroblasts; Colorectal cancer; Organoids; Stroma.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cell Proliferation
  • Coculture Techniques
  • Colorectal Neoplasms*
  • Humans
  • Hydrogels
  • Organoids*
  • Tumor Microenvironment

Substances

  • Hydrogels