Multicellular Tumor Spheroids for Evaluation of Cytotoxicity and Tumor Growth Inhibitory Effects of Nanomedicines In Vitro: A Comparison of Docetaxel-Loaded Block Copolymer Micelles and Taxotere®

>While 3-D tissue models have received increasing attention over the past several decades in the development of traditional anti-cancer therapies, their potential application for the evaluation of advanced drug delivery systems such as nanomedicines has been largely overlooked. In particular, new insight into drug resistance associated with the 3-D tumor microenvironment has called into question the validity of 2-D models for prediction of in vivo anti-tumor activity. In this work, a series of complementary assays was established for evaluating the in vitro efficacy of docetaxel (DTX) -loaded block copolymer micelles (BCM+DTX) and Taxotere® in 3-D multicellular tumor spheroid (MCTS) cultures. Spheroids were found to be significantly more resistant to treatment than monolayer cultures in a cell line dependent manner. Limitations in treatment efficacy were attributed to mechanisms of resistance associated with properties of the spheroid microenvironment. DTX-loaded micelles demonstrated greater therapeutic effect in both monolayer and spheroid cultures in comparison to Taxotere®. Overall, this work demonstrates the use of spheroids as a viable platform for the evaluation of nanomedicines in conditions which more closely reflect the in vivo tumor microenvironment relative to traditional monolayer cultures. By adaptation of traditional cell-based assays, spheroids have the potential to serve as intermediaries between traditional in vitro and in vivo models for high-throughput assessment of therapeutic candidates.

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