Skip to main content

Emerging Biomimetic Materials for Studying Tumor and Immune Cell Behavior


Northcutt LALogan A , Suarez-Arnedo AAlejandra , Rafat MMarjan . Annals of biomedical engineering. 2019 10 15; 48(7). 2064-2077


Cancer is one of the leading causes of death both in the United States and worldwide. The dynamic microenvironment in which tumors grow consists of fibroblasts, immune cells, extracellular matrix (ECM), and cytokines that enable progression and metastasis. Novel biomaterials that mimic these complex surroundings give insight into the biological, chemical, and physical environment that cause cancer cells to metastasize and invade into other tissues. Two-dimensional (2D) cultures are useful for gaining limited information about cancer cell behavior; however, they do not accurately represent the environments that cells experience in vivo. Recent advances in the design and tunability of diverse three-dimensional (3D) biomaterials complement biological knowledge and allow for improved recapitulation of in vivo conditions. Understanding cell-ECM and cell-cell interactions that facilitate tumor survival will accelerate the design of more effective therapies. This review discusses innovative materials currently being used to study tumor and immune cell behavior and interactions, including materials that mimic the ECM composition, mechanical stiffness, and integrin binding sites of the tumor microenvironment.