As cancer is still a leading cause of death worldwide, there is still a great medical need for cancer therapies. Researchers around the globe are trying to develop new ways of fighting this terrible disease. Cell culture in cancer research offers tools to bridge the gap between basic discoveries and translational research, in the effort to save more patients’ lives.
Modern molecular biology offers numerous ways to analyze the behavior and properties of cancer cells. Application of cell culture in cancer research allows scientists to identify novel drug targets, for example. Particularly with high-throughput assays, scientists can screen large substance libraries for new active substances that specifically target cancer cells. Drugs based on newly developed modes of action are suitable for a well-defined group of patients. Such therapeutic approaches are transforming cancer therapy into personalized medicine.
Different cells require conditions that are specific to their needs. Even tumor cells rely heavily on their microenvironment (Chung et al. 2005). Cytokines and growth factors are important determinants contributing to cancer development (Esquivel-Velázquez et al. 2015).
One of the most important prerequisites for tumor growth is a suitable nutrient supply (Hillen and Griffioen 2007). Tumor vascularization is also critical factor for cancer cells to ensure their survival. Many in vitro models exist to analyze the behavior of tumor cells in cell culture in terms of angiogenesis, as well as in terms of cell migration and invasion.
Another important aspect of tumors is their heterogeneous composition. There are different cell types. Very important for an effective therapy are the so-called cancer stem cells (Schulenburg et al. 2015). They are very difficult to cultivate in vitro, but their cultivation and analysis offers large potential.