Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department

Medical Sciences

Major Professor

Robert Deschenes, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Mark Alexandrow, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Gloria Ferreira, Ph.D.

Committee Member

David Landis, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Peter Medveczky, Ph.D.


FNAB, Chemosensitivity, perfusion, Fluorescence Imaging, shear stresses, Immunotherapy


The tumor microenvironment is composed of cellular and stromal components such as tumor cells, mesenchymal cells, immune cells, cancer associated fibroblasts and the supporting extracellular matrix. The tumor microenvironment provides crucial support for growth and progression of tumor cells and affects tumor response to therapeutic interventions. To better understand tumor biology and to develop effective cancer therapeutic agents it is important to develop preclinical platforms that can faithfully recapitulate the tumor microenvironment and the complex interaction between the tumor and its surrounding stromal elements. Drug studies performed in vitro with conventional two-dimensional cancer cell line models do not optimally represent clinical drug response as they lack true tumor heterogeneity and are often performed in static culture conditions lacking stromal tumor components that significantly influence the metabolic activity and proliferation of cells. Recent microfluidic approaches aim to overcome such obstacles with the use of cell lines derived in artificial three-dimensional supportive gels or micro-chambers. However, absence of a true tumor microenvironment and full interstitial flow, leads to less than optimal evaluation of tumor response to drug treatment. Here we report a continuous perfusion microfluidic device coupled with microscopy and image analysis for the assessment of drug effects on intact fresh tumor tissue. We have demonstrated that fine needle aspirate biopsies obtained from patient-derived xenograft models of adenocarcinoma of the lung can successfully be analyzed for their response to ex vivo drug treatment within this biopsy trapping microfluidic device, wherein a protein kinase C inhibitor, staurosporine, was used to assess tumor cell death as a proof of principle. Lastly, we tested the model for its ability to demonstrate similar results found in clinic when using a Wee1 inhibitor on osteosarcoma and an epidermal growth factor receptor inhibitor, Erlotinib, and inhibitors of programmed death 1 receptor and programmed death ligand 1 on lung adenocarcinoma fine needle aspirate biopsies. This approach has the potential to study tumor tissue within its intact microenvironment to better understand tumor response to drug treatments and eventually to choose the most effective drug and drug combination for individual patients in a cost effective and timely manner.