Three-dimensional ex vivo cultures from patient-derived tumor tissue offer new opportunities for drug development and personalized treatment of cancer. However, one of the main challenges in establishing a tumor type faithful ex vivo tissue culture system is in optimization of biochemical and physical microenvironment to preserve desired phenotypic features. A collaboration with the Helsinki University Hospital enables us to receive live patient-derived breast cancer tissue samples from most breast cancer surgeries performed in the Southern Finland, typically samples arriving twice a week. Together with a group of materials scientists from Aalto Technical University we have explored seven different 3D culture matrices and defined their biomechanical properties and stiffness values with rheological measurements. Four investigated matrices preserved the luminal CK8+ cell phenotype of the luminal cancers they derived from, whereas rest of the matrices that included commonly used Matrigel and collagen scaffolds promoted a switch in the cell identity from luminal CK8+ to basal CK14+ phenotype. Furthermore, the genetic expression profiles examined with NGS corresponded to observed phenotypic switch. We noticed significant species-specific differences between mouse mammary and human breast samples in their morphology, phenotypic responses and ERα+ preservation to microenvironmental matrix stiffness. Furthermore, a combination of scaffold stiffness and composition of biochemical matrix constituency is required for long-term maintenance of ERα+ luminal tumour phenotype. Therefore, both physical properties and composition of the microenvironment need to be optimized for maintenance of breast tumor type specific phenotype and genetic profiles of ex vivo tumor explant cultures.

Citation Format: Pauliina M. Munne, Lahja Martikainen, Iiris Räty, Kia Bertula, Nonappa Nonappa, Aino Peura, Minna Mutka, Marjut Leidenius, Tuomo Meretoja, Panu Kovanen, Johanna Mattson, Paivi Heikkila, Heikki Joensuu, Olli Ikkala, Juha T. Klefstrom. Novel ex vivo model for ERα positive breast cancer [abstract]. In: Proceedings of the American Association for Cancer Research Annual Meeting 2021; 2021 Apr 10-15 and May 17-21. Philadelphia (PA): AACR; Cancer Res 2021;81(13_Suppl):Abstract nr 2966.