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Development and verification of a three-dimensional (3D) breast cancer tumor model composed of circulating tumor cell (CTC) subsets
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Breast cancer is one of the most common cancer types among women in which early tumor invasion leads to metastases and death. EpCAM (epithelial cellular adhesion molecule) and HER2 (human epidermal growth factor receptor 2) are two main circulating tumor cell (CTC) subsets in HER2+ breast cancer patients. In this regard, the main aim of this study is to develop and characterize a three-dimensional (3D) breast cancer tumor model composed of CTC subsets to evaluate new therapeutic strategies and drugs. For this reason, EpCAM(+) and HER2(+) sub-populations were isolated from different cell lines to establish 3D tumor model that mimics in situ (in vivo) more closely than two-dimensional (2D) models. EpCAM(+)/HER2(+) cells had a high proliferation rate and low tendency to attach to the surface in comparison with parental MDA-MB-453 cells as CTC subsets. Aggressive breast cancer subpopulations cultured in 3D porous chitosan scaffold had enhanced cell-cell and cell-matrix interactions compared to 2D cultured cells and these 3D models showed more aggressive morphology and behavior, expressed higher levels of pluripotency marker genes, Nanog, Sox2 and Oct4. For the verification of the 3D model, the effects of doxorubicin which is a chemotherapeutic agent used in breast cancer treatment were examined and increased drug resistance was determined in 3D cultures. The 3D tumor model comprising EpCAM(+)/HER2(+) CTC subsets developed in this study has a promising potential to be used for investigation of an aggressive CTC microenvironment in vitro that mimics in vivo characteristics to test new drug candidates against CTCs.