Mimicking and surpassing the xenograft model with cancer-on-chip technology

EBioMedicine. 2021 Apr:66:103303. doi: 10.1016/j.ebiom.2021.103303. Epub 2021 Mar 25.


Organs-on-chips are in vitro models in which human tissues are cultured in microfluidic compartments with a controlled, dynamic micro-environment. Specific organs-on-chips are being developed to mimic human tumors, but the validation of such 'cancer-on-chip' models for use in drug development is hampered by the complexity and variability of human tumors. An important step towards validation of cancer-on-chip technology could be to first mimic cancer xenograft models, which share multiple characteristics with human cancers but are significantly less complex. Here we review the relevant biological characteristics of a xenograft tumor and show that organ-on-chip technology is capable of mimicking many of these aspects. Actual comparisons between on-chip tumor growth and xenografts are promising but also demonstrate that further development and empirical validation is still needed. Validation of cancer-on-chip models to xenografts would not only represent an important milestone towards acceptance of cancer-on-chip technology, but could also improve drug discovery, personalized cancer medicine, and reduce animal testing.

Keywords: Cancer; Microfluidics; Xenograft; organ-on-chip.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomimetics* / methods
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Disease Models, Animal*
  • Drug Discovery / methods
  • Heterografts
  • Humans
  • Lab-On-A-Chip Devices*
  • Mice
  • Microfluidic Analytical Techniques
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Xenograft Model Antitumor Assays