Multicellular spheroids

A review on cellular aggregates in cancer research
  • Wolfgang Mueller-Klieser
Guest Editorial


Cellular aggregates have been used in developmental biology and in experimental cancer research for several decades. Spherical aggregates of malignant cells, i.e. multicellular tumor spheroids, may serve as in vitro models of tumor microregions and of an early, avascular stage of tumor growth. The similarities between the original tumor and the respective spheroids include volume growth kinetics, cellular heterogeneity, e.g. the induction of proliferation gradients and quiescence, as well as differentiation characteristics, such as the development of specific histological structures or the expression of antigens. Research using cell aggregates has been focussed on mechanisms involved in the control of proliferation, invasion and metastasis. Immunological studies with spheroids have resulted in the characterization of defense cells which are responsible for specific host-versus-tumor reactions. The vast majority of investigations on spheroids concerns the simulation of therapy with regard to various treatment modalities, combination treatments and systematic analyses of using various endpoints in predictive assays. Only a few pathophysiological studies on the interrelationship among tumor-specific micromilieu, cellular metabolism, proliferative status, and cellular viability have been undertaken with the spheroid model up to now. Since these studies are indicative of a large influence of the cellular microenvironment on basic biological properties of cancer cells, investigations of these epigenetic mechanisms should be intensified in future research on cell aggregates. Similarly, the molecular basis of the biological peculiarities found in malignant cells grown as three-dimensional aggregates has to be investigated more intensively.

Key words

Multicellular spheroids Cellular aggregates 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1987

Authors and Affiliations

  • Wolfgang Mueller-Klieser
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Applied PhysiologyUniversity of MainzMainzFederal Republic of Germany

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