Advanced biomaterials and microengineering technologies to recapitulate the stepwise process of cancer metastasis
Cancer is one of the leading causes of death globally according to the World Health Organization. Although improved treatments and early diagnoses have reduced cancer related mortalities, metastatic disease remains a major clinical challenge. The local tumor microenvironment plays a significant role in cancer metastasis, where tumor cells respond and adapt to a plethora of biochemical and biophysical signals from stromal cells and extracellular matrix (ECM) proteins. Due to these complexities, there is a critical need to understand molecular mechanisms underlying cancer metastasis to facilitate the discovery of more effective therapies. In the past few years, the integration of advanced biomaterials and microengineering approaches has initiated the development of innovative platform technologies for cancer research. These technologies enable the creation of biomimetic in vitro models with physiologically relevant (i.e. in vivo-like) characteristics to conduct studies ranging from fundamental cancer biology to high-throughput drug screening. In this review article, we discuss the biological significance of each step of the metastatic cascade and provide a broad overview on recent progress to recapitulate these stages using advanced biomaterials and microengineered technologies. In each section, we will highlight the advantages and shortcomings of each approach and provide our perspectives on future directions.