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12.08.2016 | Ausgabe 3-4/2016

Journal of Mammary Gland Biology and Neoplasia 3-4/2016

Generation of Multicellular Breast Cancer Tumor Spheroids: Comparison of Different Protocols

Journal of Mammary Gland Biology and Neoplasia > Ausgabe 3-4/2016
Karolin Froehlich, Jan-Dirk Haeger, Julia Heger, Jana Pastuschek, Stella Mary Photini, Yan Yan, Amelie Lupp, Christiane Pfarrer, Ralf Mrowka, Ekkehard Schleußner, Udo R. Markert, André Schmidt


Multicellular tumor spheroids are widely used models in tumor research. Because of their three dimensional organization they can simulate avascular tumor areas comprising proliferative and necrotic cells. Nonetheless, protocols for spheroid generation are still inconsistent. Therefore, in this study the breast cancer cell lines MCF-7, MDA-MB-231 and SK-BR-3 have been used to compare different spheroid generation models including hanging drop, liquid overlay and suspension culture techniques, each under several conditions. Experimental approaches differed in cell numbers (400–10,000), media and additives (25 % methocel, 25 % methocel plus 1 % Matrigel, 3.5 % Matrigel). In total, 42 different experimental setups have been tested. Generation of spheroids was evaluated by light microscopy and the structural composition was assessed immunohistochemically by means of Ki-67, cleaved poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase (cPARP) and mucin-1 (MUC-1) expression. Although the tested cell lines diverged widely in their capacity of forming spheroids we recommend hanging drops supplemented with 25 % methocel as the most reliable and efficient method with regard to success of generation of uniform spheroids, costs, experimental complexity and time expenditure in the different cell lines. MCF-7 cells formed spheroids under almost all analyzed conditions, and MDA-MB-231 cells under only one protocol (liquid overlay technique, 3.5 % Matrigel), while SK-BR-3 did not under neither condition. Therefore, we outline specific methods and recommend the use of adapted and standardized spheroid generation protocols for each cell line.

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