Cellevate: A Tool for Breast Cancer Research

Overview of Breast Cancer Trends and Research

Breast cancer in women accounts for approximately one third of all new cases of cancer globally. It is estimated that 284,2000 new cases of breast cancer will be diagnosed in the U.S in 20211. Hormones such as estrogen that are critical for the maturation and maintenance of the female reproductive system have been shown to cause breast cancer. However, there is still a great deal of interest in elucidating the exact role of estrogen, progesterone and other hormones that may play a role in the development of as breast cancer.


Figure 1: Antatomy of the breast. On the right, there are the ribs (the 6 ovals) followed by the chest wall (which includes the pectoral muscle), ligaments, lobules, ducts and fatty tissue.


Challenges in Preclinical Modeling of Breast Cancer

Preclinical studies on breast cancer are challenging due to the inherent limitations of 2D cell culture systems and animal models. Current preclinical tumor models are inadequate for collecting translatable data. These models fail to recreate the native tumor environment that includes the 3D extracellular matrix and tissue stroma. In 2D cultures, cells form a flat monolayer and do not have a 3D support framework. In comparison, in vivo tumor cells typically have a more spherical shape and are supported by a fibrous extracellular network. The difference in morphology impacts the cell physiology and gene expression. In contrast, the 3D tumor microenvironment plays an important role in cell migration and metastasis. Hence, there is a need for developing physiologically relevant 3D tumor models that can be used to study the tumor microenvironment and consequently, increase the reliability of preclinical data.

Cellevate: A Nanofiber Scaffold for 3D Tumor Models

Cellevate’s 3D nanofibers mimic the native cells’ collagen and other extracellular matrix components. This structure forms a hydrogel for co-culture of normal and tumor cells. A recent paper published by the Department of Biology at Lund University in Sweden reported a novel co-culturing system that was used to test new cancer therapies2. The study showed that JIMT-1 and MCF-7 breast cancer cells, MCF-10A normal breast cells, and fibroblasts were successfully cultured on the NanoMatrix. Moreover, clustered JIMT-1 cells showed a higher proliferation rate and multiplied separately from fibroblasts. In conclusion, researchers believe the NanoMatrix is a useful 3D scaffold that mimics the tumor microenvironment and it has the potential to be a useful tool for 3D culture of breast cancer cells in preclinical studies.


  1. American Cancer Society; Cancer Statistics Center. https://cancerstatisticscenter.cancer.org/?_ga=2.38512996.654182691.1610323171-1773312790.1610323171#!/. Accessed on January 19th, 2021.
  2. Malakpour Permlid A, Roci P, Fredlund E, Fält F, Önell E, Johansson F, Oredsson S. Unique animal friendly 3D culturing of human cancer and normal cells. Toxicology in vitro: an international journal published in association with BIBRA 60, 51–60 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tiv.2019.04.022