It is becoming increasingly clear that tumour cells must be studied in the context of their 3D tissue microenvironment to obtain accurate information about their biology and identify relevant drug targets. Ridky et al. describe a new 3D in vitro model of invasive neoplasia that can be derived using the four stratified squamous epithelia that are associated with human cancer: epidermis, oropharynx, oesophagus and cervix. The authors transformed the epithelia by inducing tumour-associated signalling pathways and then cultured them with an intact basement membrane supported by cell-populated living stroma. This multi-tissue model recapitulated many features of in vivo tumour progression, including epithelial invasion of the basement membrane. Gene-expression profiling provided further support that the system faithfully models human epithelial cancer, and inhibitor studies indicate that it could be used to screen for new therapeutics, including those that target the tumour microenvironment.

Invasive three-dimensional organotypic neoplasia from multiple normal human epithelia
Nat. Med
[Epub ahead of print]

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