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Spheroid-on-chip microfluidic technology for the evaluation of the impact of continuous flow on metastatic potential in cancer models in vitro

Collins, Thomas; Pyne, Emily; Christensen, Martin; Iles, Alexander; Pamme, Nicole; Pires, Isabel M.


Thomas Collins

Emily Pyne

Martin Christensen

Alexander Iles

Nicole Pamme

Isabel M. Pires


The majority of cancer deaths are linked to tumor spread, or metastasis, but 3D in vitro metastasis models relevant to the tumor microenvironment (including interstitial fluid flow) remain an area of unmet need. Microfluidics allows us to introduce controlled flow to an in vitro cancer model to better understand the relationship between flow and metastasis. Here, we report new hybrid spheroid-on-chip in vitro models for the impact of interstitial fluid flow on cancer spread. We designed a series of reusable glass microfluidic devices to contain one spheroid in a microwell under continuous perfusion culture. Spheroids derived from established cancer cell lines were perfused with complete media at a flow rate relevant to tumor interstitial fluid flow. Spheroid viability and migratory/invasive capabilities were maintained on-chip when compared to off-chip static conditions. Importantly, using flow conditions modeled in vitro, we are the first to report flow-induced secretion of pro-metastatic factors, in this case cytokines vascular endothelial growth factor and interleukin 6. In summary, we have developed a new, streamlined spheroid-on-chip in vitro model that represents a feasible in vitro alternative to conventional murine in vivo metastasis assays, including complex tumor environmental factors, such as interstitial fluid flow, extracellular matrices, and using 3D models to model nutrient and oxygen gradients. Our device, therefore, constitutes a robust alternative to in vivo early-metastasis models for determination of novel metastasis biomarkers as well as evaluation of therapeutically relevant molecular targets not possible in in vivo murine models.


Collins, T., Pyne, E., Christensen, M., Iles, A., Pamme, N., & Pires, I. M. (2021). Spheroid-on-chip microfluidic technology for the evaluation of the impact of continuous flow on metastatic potential in cancer models in vitro. Biomicrofluidics, 15(4), Article 044103.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Aug 10, 2021
Online Publication Date Aug 27, 2021
Publication Date 2021-07
Deposit Date Aug 11, 2021
Publicly Available Date Oct 27, 2022
Journal Biomicrofluidics
Publisher American Institute of Physics
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 15
Issue 4
Article Number 044103
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© 2021 Author(s). All article content, except where otherwise noted, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license<br /> (

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