Generation and Evaluation of Hydrogel-Facilitated 3D Tumor Microenvironments of Breast Cancer

Sheba Goklany, Earl Brown, Lauryn De La Torre, Kaushal Rege

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Engineered three-dimensional (3D) cell culture models can accelerate drug discovery, and lead to new fundamental insights in cell-cell, cell-extracellular matrix (ECM), and cell-biomolecule interactions. Existing hydrogel or scaffold-based approaches for generating 3D tumor models do not possess significant tunability and possess limited scalability for high throughput drug screening. We have developed a new library of hydrogels, called Amikagels, which are derived from the crosslinking of amikacin hydrate (AH) and poly(ethylene glycol) diglycidyl ether (PEGDE). Here we describe the use of Amikagels for generating 3D tumor microenvironments (3DTMs) of breast cancer cells. Biological characteristics of these breast cancer 3DTMs, such as drug resistance and hypoxia were evaluated and compared to those of two-dimensional (2D) monolayer cultures. Estrogen receptor (ER) positive breast cancer 3DTMs formed on Amikagels were more dormant compared to their respective 2D monolayer cultures. Relative to their respective 2D cultures, breast cancer 3DTMs were resistant to cell death induced by mitoxantrone and doxorubicin, which are commonly used chemotherapeutic drugs in cancer, including breast cancer. The drug resistance seen in 3DTMs was correlated with hypoxia seen in these cultures but not in 2D monolayer cultures. Inhibition of Mucin 1 (MUC1), which is overexpressed in response to hypoxia, resulted in nearly complete cell death of 2D monolayer and 3DTMs of breast cancer. Combination of an ER stress inducer and MUC1 inhibition further enhanced cell death in 2D monolayer and 3DTMs. Taken together, this study shows that the Amikagel platform represents a novel technology for the generation of physiologically relevant 3DTMs in vitro and can serve as a platform to discover novel treatments for drug-resistant breast cancer.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number2250011
JournalNano LIFE
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1 2022


  • 3D tumor microenvironments
  • Amikagel
  • breast cancer
  • hydrogel
  • hypoxia
  • MUC1

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Bioengineering
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Pharmaceutical Science


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