Advances in biofabrication techniques for collagen-based 3D in vitro culture models for breast cancer research

John Redmond, Helen McCarthy, Paul Buchanan , Tanya J. Levingstone, Nicholas J. Dunne

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
180 Downloads (Pure)


Collagen is the most abundant component of the extracellular matrix (ECM), therefore it represents an ideal biomaterial for the culture of a variety of cell types. Recently, collagen-based scaffolds have shown promise as 3D culture platforms for breast cancer-based research. Two-dimensional (2D) in vitro culture models, while useful for gaining preliminary insights, are ultimately flawed as they do not adequately replicate the tumour microenvironment. As a result, they do not facilitate proper 3D cell-cell/cell-matrix interactions and often an exaggerated response to therapeutic agents occurs. The ECM plays a crucial role in the development and spread of cancer. Alterations within the ECM have a significant impact on the pathogenesis of cancer, the initiation of metastasis and ultimate progression of the disease. 3D in vitro culture models that aim to replicate the tumour microenvironment have the potential to offer a new frontier for cancer research with cell growth, morphology and genetic properties that more closely match in vivo cancers. While initial 3D in vitro culture models used in breast cancer research consisted of simple hydrogel platforms, recent advances in biofabrication techniques, including freeze-drying, electrospinning and 3D bioprinting, have enabled the fabrication of biomimetic collagen-based platforms that more closely replicate the breast cancer ECM. This review highlights the current application of collagen-based scaffolds as 3D in vitro culture models for breast cancer research, specifically for adherence-based scaffolds (i.e. matrix-assisted). Finally, the future perspectives of 3D in vitro breast cancer models and their potential to lead to an improved understanding of breast cancer diagnosis and treatment are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Article number11194
Number of pages19
JournalMaterials Science and Engineering C: Materials for Biological Applications
Early online date05 Feb 2021
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2021


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