AUG 15, 2018 8:00 AM PDT

3D Spheroid Cell Models for Drug-Resistant Cancer Research

  • Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Pharmacen™, Centre of Excellence for Pharmaceutical Sciences, North-West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa.
      Dr. Clarissa Willers is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Pharmacen™, Centre of Excellence for Pharmaceutical Sciences, at the North-West University in Potchefstroom, South Africa. She obtained her Ph.D. in Environmental Sciences in 2016, with her main focus on soil microbiology. Dr. Willers is part of a research team that develops and uses cell culture models for pharmaceutical applications. Studies she is involved in focus on the bioavailability and permeability of drugs across membranes, the overall cytotoxicity of drugs and potential herb-drug interactions occurring when prescribed Western drugs are used in conjunction with traditional plant medicines. Moreover, traditional plant extracts with possible anti-cancerous and wound-healing effects also form part of her research. Although traditional two-dimensional (2D) cell culture models are routinely used, she and her colleagues are currently developing and establishing three-dimensional (3D) spheroid models as an improved representation of in vivo tumours for cancer drug resistance research. Dr. Willers has published eight publications in international peer-reviewed journals so far and her research has been presented at three international and three national conferences.


    DATE: August 15, 2018
    TIME: 08:00AM PDT, 11:00AM EDT

    The failure of current chemotherapeutic strategies in the fight against cancer can be largely attributed to the occurrence of drug resistance. Drug resistance is a major concern, especially in aggressive and highly metastatic tumours with a poor prognosis. In vitro cell-based models cultured as traditional two-dimensional (2D) cultures are commonly used for cancer research, including drug resistance studies. However, the inconsistencies between 2D in vitro results and in vivo or clinical findings have raised doubts about the accountability of 2D in vitro models as accurate representatives of in vivo tumours. Seeing as cancer cells cultured as three-dimensional (3D) spheroids have been shown to more closely mimic the complex microenvironment of an in vivo tumour, these models may overcome the aforementioned discrepancies. We aim to develop novel 3D micro-gravity spheroid-based cancer models to investigate drug resistance. This is done with different small cell lung cancer (SCLC) cell lines with varying levels of efflux transporters, which are known to be frequently involved in drug resistance mechanisms. Each of these models is validated through comparison of standard anticancer drug efficacy to published in vivo or clinical findings. Our main application of these models, currently, is investigating the potential of traditional herbal medicines to reduce or overcome efflux transporter-based drug resistance in SCLC.

    Learning Objectives:

    • To understand the use of three-dimensional micro-gravity spheroid cell models in cancer research, as an improvement on traditional two-dimensional cell cultures.
    • How to approach establishing and using 3D micro-gravity spheroid cell models for cancer research.
    • Exploring the potential applications of 3D micro-gravity spheroid cell models to investigate drug resistance in cancer.

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