Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Subhra Mohapatra


biopsy, chemosensitivity, electrospinning, epithelial mesenchymal transition, inhibitors


Attrition rates for anticancer drugs are much higher than any other therapeutic area. Only 5%#37; of the agents that demonstrate anticancer activity in the preclinical stages of development demonstrate clinical efficacy in phase III trials. This high attrition rate becomes alarming when we consider that the cost of research and development can amount to 1 billion dollars. To exacerbate this problem, many new cancer drugs are being discontinued, withdrawn or suspended. The reasons for this high attrition rate are complex and may be partly attributed to suboptimal preclinical strategies such as the use of two-dimensional (2D) cell culture systems to evaluate new agents during the development and testing stages. Cancer cells cultured in 2D do not mimic the complexity of the three-dimensional (3D) milieu of tumors in vivo. There is overwhelming evidence that in vitro 3D culture systems more accurately reflect the tumor microenvironment and present better predictive value for assessing the efficacy of new chemotherapeutic agents. The development of 3D culture systems for anticancer drug development remains an unmet need. Despite progress, a simple, rapid, scalable and inexpensive 3D-tumor model that recapitulates in vivo tumorigenesis is lacking. Herein, we report on the development and characterization of a 3D nanofibrous scaffold produced by electrospinning a mixture of poly(lactic-co-glycolic acid) (PLGA) and a block copolymer of polylactic acid (PLA) and mono-methoxy polyethylene glycol (mPEG) designated as 3P. Cancer cells cultured on the 3P scaffold formed tight aggregates similar to in vivo tumors, referred to as tumoroids that depended on the topography and net charge of the scaffold. 3P scaffolds induced tumor cells to undergo the epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT) as demonstrated by up-regulation of vimentin and loss of E-cadherin expression. 3P tumoroids showed higher resistance to anticancer drugs than the same tumor cells grown as monolayers. Inhibition of ERK and PI3K signal pathways prevented EMT conversion and reduced tumoroid formation, diameter and number. Fine needle aspirates, collected from tumor cells implanted in mice when cultured on 3P scaffolds formed tumoroids, but showed decreased sensitivity to anticancer drugs, compared to tumoroids formed by direct seeding. These results show that 3P scaffolds provide an excellent platform for producing tumoroids from tumor cell lines and from biopsies and that the platform can be used to culture patient biopsies, test for anticancer compounds and tailor a personalized cancer treatment.