3D models of breast cancer tumors introduce stromal cells as new drug therapy targets

Hossein Tavana, Ph.D., an associate professor of biomedical engineering at The University of Akron (UA), has received a single-PI grant in the amount of $328,426 from the National Science Foundation (NSF) – his third federal grant this year – to study the role of stromal cells in cancer.

In addition to a mass of cancer cells, tumors contain several other types of cells known collectively as stromal cells. These cells make up connective tissue that normally supports all tissues and organs both structurally and functionally. Research in recent years has shown that stromal cells play a major role in cancer growth and progression.

“Tumors are considered a complex tissue,” said Tavana. “Treatments have only focused on the cancerous cells and largely neglected the stromal cells that contribute to tumor growth and persistence despite treatments.”

The research in this three-year NSF grant will utilize his lab’s patented technology to make 3D culture models that mimic the morphology of tumors and reproduce the interactions between stromal and cancer cells.

“Our studies using this model will allow us to mechanically understand how stromal cells render cancer cells proliferative and drug resistant,” said Tavana. “This will ultimately allow for more accurate drug testing


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