Tumor-on-chip modeling of organ-specific cancer and metastasis

Every year, cancer claims millions of lives around the globe. Unfortunately, model systems that accurately mimic human oncology – a requirement for the development of more effective therapies for these patients – remain elusive. Tumor development is an organ-specific process that involves modification of existing tissue features, recruitment of other cell types, and eventual metastasis to distant organs. Recently, tissue engineered microfluidic devices have emerged as a powerful in vitro tool to model human physiology and pathology with organ-specificity. These organ-on-chip platforms consist of cells cultured in 3D hydrogels and offer precise control over geometry, biological components, and physiochemical properties. Here, we review progress towards organ-specific microfluidic models of the primary and metastatic tumor microenvironments. Despite the field’s infancy, these tumor-on-chip models have enabled discoveries about cancer immunobiology and response to therapy. Future work should focus on the development of autologous or multi-organ systems and inclusion of the immune system.