3D tumor angiogenesis models: recent advances and challenges

J Cancer Res Clin Oncol. 2021 Dec;147(12):3477-3494. doi: 10.1007/s00432-021-03814-0. Epub 2021 Oct 6.


The development of blood vessels, referred to as angiogenesis, is an intricate process regulated spatially and temporally through a delicate balance between the qualitative and quantitative expression of pro and anti-angiogenic molecules. As angiogenesis is a prerequisite for solid tumors to grow and metastasize, a variety of tumor angiogenesis models have been formulated to better understand the underlying mechanisms and associated clinical applications. Studies have demonstrated independent mechanisms inducing angiogenesis in tumors such as (a) HIF-1/VEGF mediated paracrine interactions between a cancer cell and endothelial cells, (b) recruitment of progenitor endothelial cells, and (c) vasculogenic mimicry. Moreover, single-cell sequencing technologies have indicated endothelial cell heterogeneity among organ systems including tumor tissues. However, existing angiogenesis models often rely upon normal endothelial cells which significantly differ from tumor endothelial cells exhibiting distinct (epi)genetic and metabolic signatures. Besides, the existence of intra-individual variations necessitates the development of improved tumor vascular model systems for personalized medicine. In the present review, we summarize recent advancements of 3D tumor vascular model systems which include (a) tissue engineering-based tumor models; (b) vascular organoid models, and (c) organ-on-chips and their importance in replicating the tumor angiogenesis along with the associated challenges to design improved models.

Keywords: 3D model systems; Organ on chip; Organoid models; Tumor angiogenesis.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / blood supply*
  • Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Neovascularization, Pathologic*
  • Organoids*
  • Tissue Engineering / methods*