Cancer, the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells in the body, is a general term used to account for more than 100 types of disease. According to Cancer Facts and Figures 2015, published by the American Cancer Society, nearly 600,000 U.S. residents will be lost to cancer by the end of this year. Global spending on cancer medications to combat each particular disease continues to increase, and for the first time crossed the $100 billion level in 2014. While concerted efforts to discover new anticancer drugs continue, this has not translated into high levels of success for potential new drugs, with up to 95% of candidate molecules failing clinical trials due to lack of efficacy or unforeseen safety concerns.
These shortcomings are in part the result of in vitro cell-based assay models that do not represent in vivo conditions. As an example, cells grown on two-dimensional (2D) hard plastic or glass substrates are easily prepared, but may not be representative of the true in vivo cell environment. Three-dimensional (3D) cell culture methods, in comparison, provide a matrix that encourages cells to organize into structures more indicative of the in vivo environment, thereby developing normal cell-cell and cell-ECM interactions in an in vitro environment.
Even as 3D cell culture methods bring about the hope of lowering lead molecule attrition rates, they also bring new challenges, particularly for assay readout systems such as conventional PMT-based detection and cellular microscopy. For example, cells aggregated into spheroid structures, which are much smaller than the area of the well of a 96-well microtiter plate are particularly challenging to monitor with conventional PMT-based detection used in microplate readers. However, in other 3D systems that encompass the whole microplate well such as scaffold-based 3D cell culture methods, PMT-based detection, which is designed to collect as much light as possible from a microplate well may provide better assay performance.
We invite you to read the Omics Tutorial, "Analysis of 3D Cell Culture Models: Enabling Phenotypic and Target-Based Assay of 3D Cellular Structures", in the September issue of Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News to learn more how the combined automated digital widefield microscopy and conventional multi-mode microplate reading capabilities of BioTek's Cytation 3 and Cytation 5 offer a unique flexibility to enable a wide range of 3D cell culture studies.