Cancer Research: Now showing in 3D

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1. Please give a summary of your research.

In Australia, one in two men and women will develop cancer in their lifetime. We know that approximately 95% of new drugs fail during clinical trials after positive results during lab testing and animal model pre-clinical phases, creating a bottleneck of ineffective drugs. The biological differences between animals and humans limits the predictability power of pre-clinical models. The reduction and replacement of animals in research requires models that should mimic the natural human tissue environment.

Traditional methods for cancer research use cells grown on a two-dimensional surface, such as plastic or glass, which does not replicate human biology because humans are not two-dimensional. This is a major issue that has hindered cancer research for decades. I am developing new three-dimensional technologies for cancer research, using cancer cells grown inside of a jelly-like material (a hydrogel). These three-dimensional models are like “mini-tissues”, that are able to provide a more realistic environment for researchers to study cancer. This research will benefit Australia by placing it at the forefront of cutting-edge cancer research technologies, and by providing a new method for drug companies to test new cancer treatments. This could lead to a greater speed to market, greater drug accuracy in humans, and will reduce drug testing in animals. These three-dimensional “mini-tissues” open the way for a new generation of cancer research and will result in better testing, which will result in better health outcomes for patients. This is the future of cancer research.

2. Please include any additional details you would like to share


Relevant publications:

Bray LJ, Werner C. Evaluation of three dimensional in vitro models to study tumour angiogenesis. ACS Biomaterials Science & Engineering 2018;4(2):337-346.

Bray LJ, Secker C, Murekatete B, Sievers J, Binner M, Welzel PB, Werner C. Three dimensional in vitro hydro- and cryogel-based cell culture models for the study of breast cancer metastasis to bone. Cancers 2018;10(9):292.

Papadimitriou C, Cosacak MI, Mashkaryan V, Celikkaya H, Bray LJ, Bhattarai P, Hollak H, Chen X, He S, Antos CL, Thomas AK, Friedrichs J, Dahl A, Zhang Y, Freudenberg U, Werner C, Kizil C. Instructive starPEG-heparin biohybrid 3D cultures for modelling human neural stem cell plasticity, neurogenesis, and neurodegeneration. Developmental Cell 2018;46(1):85-101.


Bray LJ, Binner M, Werner C. 3D Models of Tumour Angiogenesis. In 3D Cell Culture: Methods and Protocols, Z Koledova, Editor. Methods Mol Biol 2017;1612:39-63. Springer, New York.

Goncalves-Schmidt DPN, Rodriguez RD, Bray LJ, Binner M, Jungnickel C, Gür FN, Poser SW, Schmidt T, Zahn DRT, Androutsellis-Theotokis A, Schlierf M, Werner C. Selective photothermal targeting of glioblastoma multiforme cancer stem cells by peptide functionalized gold nanorods in 3D hydrogel systems. Acta Biomater 2017;58:12-25.

Bray LJ, Binner M, Körner Y, von Bonin M, Bornhäuser M, Werner C. A three-dimensional tri-culture model for the ex vivostudy of acute myeloid leukaemia. Haematologica 2017;102:1215-1226. 

Binner M, Bray LJ, Friedrichs J, Freudenberg U, Tsurkan M, Werner C. Cell-instructive starPEG-heparin-collagen composite matrices. Acta Biomater 2017;53:70-80.

Dhawan A, v. Bonin M, Bray LJ, Freudenberg U, Bejestani EP, Werner C, Hofbauer L, Wobus M, Bornhäuser M. Functional interference in the bone marrow microenvironment by disseminated breast cancer cells. Stem Cells 2016;34(8):2224-2235. 

Taubenberger A*, Bray LJ*, Haller B, Shaposhnykov A, Binner M, Tsurkan M, Friedrichs J, Freudenberg U, Werner C, Guck, J. 3D extracellular matrix interactions modulate tumour cell growth, invasion and angiogenesis in engineered tumour microenvironments. Acta Biomater 2016;36:73-85. *These authors contributed equally to this work.

Bray LJ, Binner M, Holzheu A, Friedrichs J, Freudenberg U, Hutmacher DW, Werner C. Multi-parametric hydrogels support 3D in vitro bioengineered microenvironment models of tumour angiogenesis. Biomaterials 2015;53:609-620.

Chwalek K, Bray LJ, Werner C. Tissue-engineered 3D tumor angiogenesis models: Potential technologies for anti-cancer drug discovery. Adv Drug Deliv Rev 2014;79-80:30-39.


Ken Dutton-Regester
8 months ago

Great research back to you too! Very schmicko vid!

Arutha Kulasinghe
8 months ago

Great work Laura


Laura is a National Breast Cancer Foundation Research Fellow at the Queensland University of Technology.

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