Gel-free 3d tumoroids with stem cell properties modeling drug resistance to cisplatin and imatinib in metastatic colorectal cancer

Chiharu Sogawa, Takanori Eguchi, Yuri Namba, Yuka Okusya, Eriko Aoyama, Kazumi Ohyama, Kuniaki Okamoto

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Researchers have developed several three-dimensional (3D) culture systems, including spheroids, organoids, and tumoroids with increased properties of cancer stem cells (CSCs), also called cancer-initiating cells (CICs). Drug resistance is a crucial issue involving recurrence in cancer patients. Many studies on anti-cancer drugs have been reported using 2D culture systems, whereas 3D cultured tumoroids have many advantages for assessing drug sensitivity and resistance. Here, we aimed to investigate whether Cisplatin (a DNA crosslinker), Imatinib (a multiple tyrosine kinase inhibitor), and 5-Fluorouracil (5-FU: an antimetabolite) alter the tumoroid growth of metastatic colorectal cancer (mCRC). Gene expression signatures of highly metastatic aggregative CRC (LuM1 cells) vs. lowmetastatic, non-aggregative CRC (Colon26 and NM11 cells) were analyzed using microarray. To establish a 3D culture-based multiplexing reporter assay system, LuM1 was stably transfected with the Mmp9 promoter-driven ZsGreen fluorescence reporter gene, which was designated as LuM1/m9 cells and cultured in NanoCulture Plate®, a gel-free 3D culture device. LuM1 cells highly expressed mRNA encoding ABCG2 (a drug resistance pump, i.e., CSC/CIC marker), other CSC/CIC markers (DLL1, EpCAM, podoplanin, STAT3/5), pluripotent stem cell markers (Sox4/7, N-myc, GATA3, Nanog), and metastatic markers (MMPs, Integrins, EGFR), compared to the other two cell types. Hoechst efflux stem cell-like side population was increased in LuM1 (7.8%) compared with Colon26 (2.9%), both of which were markedly reduced by verapamil treatment, an ABCG2 inhibitor. Smaller cell aggregates of LuM1 were more sensitive to Cisplatin (at 10 µM), whereas larger tumoroids with increased ABCG2 expression were insensitive. Notably, Cisplatin (2 µM) and Imatinib (10 µM) at low concentrations significantly promoted tumoroid formation (cell aggregation) and increased Mmp9 promoter activity in mCRC LuM1/m9, while not cytotoxic to them. On the other hand, 5-FU significantly inhibited tumoroid growth, although not completely. Thus, drug resistance in cancer with increased stem cell properties was modeled using the gel-free 3D cultured tumoroid system. The tumoroid culture is useful and easily accessible for the assessment of drug sensitivity and resistance.

Original languageEnglish
Article number344
Pages (from-to)1-17
Number of pages17
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2021


  • Cisplatin resistance
  • Gel-free 3D culture
  • Imatinib (gleevec)
  • Metastatic colorectal cancer (mCRC)
  • Spheroid
  • Stem cells
  • Tumoroid
  • Tyrosine kinase inhibitor (TKI)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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