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Establishment of a 3D Co-culture With MDA-MB-231 Breast Cancer Cell Line and Patient-Derived Immune Cells for Application in the Development of Immunotherapies

  • Saraiva, Diana P.1
  • Matias, Ana T.1
  • Braga, Sofia1, 2
  • Jacinto, António1
  • Cabral, M. Guadalupe1
  • 1 CEDOC, NOVA Medical School, Faculdade de Ciências Médicas da Universidade Nova de Lisboa, Lisbon , (Portugal)
  • 2 Instituto CUF de Oncologia, Lisbon , (Portugal)
Published Article
Frontiers in Oncology
Frontiers Media SA
Publication Date
Aug 27, 2020
DOI: 10.3389/fonc.2020.01543
PMID: 32974189
PMCID: PMC7482668
PubMed Central


3D cell culture including different cell types, such as immune cells, is a representative platform that mimics the tumor microenvironment. Here we disclose an easy-to-handle 3D co-culture protocol using a scaffold-free technique with the breast cancer cell line MDA-MB-231 and breast cancer patient-derived immune cells from peripheral blood. The method presented is simple, less time-consuming and less expensive when compared to other 3D techniques. Additionally, this is an optimized protocol for the establishment of a 3D system for this cell line, which is normally seen as challenging to spontaneously form spheroids. The addition of patient-derived immune cells to the cancer cells' spheroid allows the study of the crosstalk between both cell types, as well as the assessment of individual therapeutic approaches to intensify the antitumor immune response. In fact, with this model, we observed that patients' immune cells exhibit a wide range of antitumor responses and we further demonstrated that it is possible to manipulate the less effective ones with a canonical stimulus, as a proof-of-concept, in order to improve their ability to lower the viability of tumor cells. Therefore, this platform could be applied for a personalized immune-based drug screening, with results after a maximum of 10 days of culture, in order to develop more tailored breast cancer treatments and ameliorate patients' survival rate.

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