Biomimetic Microfluidic Platforms for the Assessment of Breast Cancer Metastasis

Front Bioeng Biotechnol. 2021 Mar 11:9:633671. doi: 10.3389/fbioe.2021.633671. eCollection 2021.


Of around half a million women dying of breast cancer each year, more than 90% die due to metastasis. Models necessary to understand the metastatic process, particularly breast cancer cell extravasation and colonization, are currently limited and urgently needed to develop therapeutic interventions necessary to prevent breast cancer metastasis. Microfluidic approaches aim to reconstitute functional units of organs that cannot be modeled easily in traditional cell culture or animal studies by reproducing vascular networks and parenchyma on a chip in a three-dimensional, physiologically relevant in vitro system. In recent years, microfluidics models utilizing innovative biomaterials and micro-engineering technologies have shown great potential in our effort of mechanistic understanding of the breast cancer metastasis cascade by providing 3D constructs that can mimic in vivo cellular microenvironment and the ability to visualize and monitor cellular interactions in real-time. In this review, we will provide readers with a detailed discussion on the application of the most up-to-date, state-of-the-art microfluidics-based breast cancer models, with a special focus on their application in the engineering approaches to recapitulate the metastasis process, including invasion, intravasation, extravasation, breast cancer metastasis organotropism, and metastasis niche formation.

Keywords: breast cancer metastasis; extravasation; intravasation; invasion; metastatic niche; microfluidics; organotropism; tumor microenvironment (TEM).

Publication types

  • Review