Organ-on-a-Chip and Microfluidic Platforms for Oncology in the UK

Article Type: Review

Application: Cancer

Abstract: Organ-on-chip systems are capable of replicating complex tissue structures and physiological phenomena. The fine control of biochemical and biomechanical cues within these microphysiological systems provides opportunities for cancer researchers to build complex models of the tumour microenvironment. Interest in applying organ chips to investigate mechanisms such as metastatsis and to test therapeutics has grown rapidly, and this review draws together the published research using these microfluidic platforms to study cancer. We focus on both in-house systems and commercial platforms being used in the UK for fundamental discovery science and therapeutics testing. We cover the wide variety of cancers being investigated, ranging from common carcinomas to rare sarcomas, as well as secondary cancers. We also cover the broad sweep of different matrix microenvironments, physiological mechanical stimuli and immunological effects being replicated in these models. We examine microfluidic models specifically, rather than organoids or complex tissue or cell co-cultures, which have been reviewed elsewhere. However, there is increasing interest in incorporating organoids, spheroids and other tissue cultures into microfluidic organ chips and this overlap is included. Our review includes a commentary on cancer organ-chip models being developed and used in the UK, including work conducted by members of the UK Organ-on-a-Chip Technologies Network. We conclude with a reflection on the likely future of this rapidly expanding field of oncological research.