Monocyte Infiltration and Differentiation in 3D Multicellular Spheroid Cancer Models

Authors: Natasha Helleberg Madsen (Bioneer A/S), Boye Schnack Nielsen (Bioneer A/S), Son Ly Nhat (Bioneer A/S), Søren Skov (Department of Veterinary and Animal Sciences, University of Copenhagen), Monika Gad 1 (Bioneer A/S), Jesper Larsen (Bioneer A/S)

Published in Pathogens


Tumor-associated macrophages often correlate with tumor progression, and therapies targeting immune cells in tumors have emerged as promising treatments. To select effective therapies, we established an in vitro 3D multicellular spheroid model including cancer cells, fibroblasts, and monocytes. We analyzed monocyte infiltration and differentiation in spheroids generated from fibroblasts and either of the cancer cell lines MCF-7, HT-29, PANC-1, or MIA PaCa-2. Monocytes rapidly infiltrated spheroids and differentiated into mature macrophages with diverse phenotypes in a cancer cell line-dependent manner. MIA PaCa-2 spheroids polarized infiltrating monocytes to M2-like macrophages with high CD206 and CD14 expression, whereas monocytes polarized by MCF-7 spheroids displayed an M1-like phenotype. Monocytes in HT-29 and PANC-1 primarily obtained an M2-like phenotype but also showed upregulation of M1 markers. Analysis of the secretion of 43 soluble factors demonstrated that the cytokine profile between spheroid cultures differed considerably depending on the cancer cell line. Secretion of most of the cytokines increased upon the addition of monocytes resulting in a more inflammatory and pro-tumorigenic environment. These multicellular spheroids can be used to recapitulate the tumor microenvironment and the phenotype of tumor-associated macrophages in vitro and provide more realistic 3D cancer models allowing the in vitro screening of immunotherapeutic compounds.

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