The tumor-on-chip: Recent advances in the development of microfluidic systems to recapitulate the physiology of solid tumors uri icon


  • © 2019 by the authors.The ideal in vitro recreation of the micro-tumor niche-although much needed for a better understanding of cancer etiology and development of better anticancer therapies-is highly challenging. Tumors are complex three-dimensional (3D) tissues that establish a dynamic cross-talk with the surrounding tissues through complex chemical signaling. An extensive body of experimental evidence has established that 3D culture systems more closely recapitulate the architecture and the physiology of human solid tumors when compared with traditional 2D systems. Moreover, conventional 3D culture systems fail to recreate the dynamics of the tumor niche. Tumor-on-chip systems, which are microfluidic devices that aim to recreate relevant features of the tumor physiology, have recently emerged as powerful tools in cancer research. In tumor-on-chip systems, the use of microfluidics adds another dimension of physiological mimicry by allowing a continuous feed of nutrients (and pharmaceutical compounds). Here, we discuss recently published literature related to the culture of solid tumor-like tissues in microfluidic systems (tumor-on-chip devices). Our aim is to provide the readers with an overview of the state of the art on this particular theme and to illustrate the toolbox available today for engineering tumor-like structures (and their environments) in microfluidic devices. The suitability of tumor-on-chip devices is increasing in many areas of cancer research, including the study of the physiology of solid tumors, the screening of novel anticancer pharmaceutical compounds before resourcing to animal models, and the development of personalized treatments. In the years to come, additive manufacturing (3D bioprinting and 3D printing), computational fluid dynamics, and medium- to high-throughput omics will become powerful enablers of a new wave of more sophisticated and effective tumor-on-chip devices.

Publication date

  • September 1, 2019