A three-dimensional in vitro tumor platform for modeling therapeutic irreversible electroporation

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Irreversible electroporation (IRE) is emerging as a powerful tool for tumor ablation that utilizes pulsed electric fields to destabilize the plasma membrane of cancer cells past the point of recovery. The ablated region is dictated primarily by the electric field distribution in the tissue, which forms the basis of current treatment planning algorithms. To generate data for refinement of these algorithms, there is a need to develop a physiologically accurate and reproducible platform on which to study IRE in vitro. Here, IRE was performed on a 3D in vitro tumor model consisting of cancer cells cultured within dense collagen I hydrogels, which have been shown to acquire phenotypes and respond to therapeutic stimuli in a manner analogous to that observed in in vivo pathological systems. Electrical and thermal fluctuations were monitored during treatment, and this information was incorporated into a numerical model for predicting the electric field distribution in the tumors. When correlated with Live/Dead staining of the tumors, an electric field threshold for cell death (500 V/cm) comparable to values reported in vivo was generated. In addition, submillimeter resolution was observed at the boundary between the treated and untreated regions, which is characteristic of in vivo IRE. Overall, these results illustrate the advantages of using 3D cancer cell culture models to improve IRE-treatment planning and facilitate widespread clinical use of the technology. © 2012 Biophysical Society.




Arena, C. B., Szot, C. S., Garcia, P. A., Rylander, M. N., & Davalos, R. V. (2012). A three-dimensional in vitro tumor platform for modeling therapeutic irreversible electroporation. Biophysical Journal, 103(9), 2033–2042. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bpj.2012.09.017

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