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In Journal of visualized experiments : JoVE

Brain metastases are the most lethal cancer lesions; 10-30% of all cancers metastasize to the brain, with a median survival of only ~5-20 months, depending on the cancer type. To reduce the brain metastatic tumor burden, gaps in basic and translational knowledge need to be addressed. Major challenges include a paucity of reproducible preclinical models and associated tools. Three-dimensional models of brain metastasis can yield the relevant molecular and phenotypic data used to address these needs when combined with dedicated analysis tools. Moreover, compared to murine models, organ-on-a-chip models of patient tumor cells traversing the blood brain barrier into the brain microenvironment generate results rapidly and are more interpretable with quantitative methods, thus amenable to high throughput testing. Here we describe and demonstrate the use of a novel 3D microfluidic blood brain niche (µmBBN) platform where multiple elements of the niche can be cultured for an extended period (several days), fluorescently imaged by confocal microscopy, and the images reconstructed using an innovative confocal tomography technique; all aimed to understand the development of micro-metastasis and changes to the tumor micro-environment (TME) in a repeatable and quantitative manner. We demonstrate how to fabricate, seed, image, and analyze the cancer cells and TME cellular and humoral components, using this platform. Moreover, we show how artificial intelligence (AI) is used to identify the intrinsic phenotypic differences of cancer cells that are capable of transit through a model µmBBN and to assign them an objective index of brain metastatic potential. The data sets generated by this method can be used to answer basic and translational questions about metastasis, the efficacy of therapeutic strategies, and the role of the TME in both.

Oliver C Ryan, Westerhof Trisha M, Castro Maria G, Merajver Sofia D