Columbia University

Technology Ventures

3D cancer culture for a realistic in vitro model to study cancer progression and test for chemotherapeutic agents

Technology #cu14182

Over 90% of promising preclinical drugs fail to translate into efficacious human therapeutics, resulting in a large waste of resources. During preclinical studies, reliable in vitro models are critical for weeding out non-efficacious drug candidates, but most in vitro cell culture methods are done on 2-dimensional (2D) model systems. These 2D models do not reflect the true 3-dimensional (3D) tumor microenvironment and therefore lose many critical cues normally present in vivo such as dimensionality, cancer phenotype, aggressiveness, and drug resistance. This technology is an engineered 3D culture platform made of macro-pores, micro-channels, and nano-pores. Together, the highly porous and interconnected platform creates a scaffold for the 3D growth of cancer cells. Thus, this technology offers an alternative cancer culture model system that is the most native representation of complex cancer signatures than currently used models, ultimately improving cancer research and accelerating chemotherapy drug development.

3D cancer culture model for improving in vitro chemotherapeutic drug screening

This technology provides a 3D cancer culture model to accurately reflect the microenvironment of tumor growth. The model consists of a scaffold engineered with macro-pores (300-400 µm), micro-channels (25-70 µm), and nano-pores (100-400 nm) to facilitate 3D growth of cancer cells. A perfusion bioreactor system continuously delivers fresh media to the 3D cancer culture to promote growth of a cancer cell mass. This technology is more physiological relevant than traditional 2D cell culture systems, and therefore it may be a more predictive pre-clinical model for testing chemotherapeutic agents.

143B osteosarcoma cells and pre-osteoblast MC3T3 cells were successfully cocultured on the 3D scaffold to create a 3D cell mass. Unlike cells in 2D culture, cancer cells in the 3D culture model formed a region of tumor hypoxia and demonstrated greater drug resistance to chemotherapy treatment.

Lead Inventor:

Daniel S. Oh, Ph.D.


  • An advanced 3D cell culture assay for the discovery of cancer therapeutics
  • An advanced 3D cell culture assay for studying cancer progression and metastasis
  • A culturing platform and system for facilitating three-dimensional growth of cells


  • Induces hypoxia as is found in tumor cell mass
  • Realistic in vitro model of a tumor cell mass
  • Screens for potential chemotherapy drug candidates in a more accurate in vitro modeling system
  • Saves time and money spent developing drug candidates that are only effective in 2D models
  • Potentially increases output of pre-clinical drug candidates that translate into clinical therapies

Patent Information:

Tech Ventures Reference: IR CU14182

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