It has been suggested that chemoresistance of chondrosarcoma (CHS), the cartilage tumor, is caused by the phenotypic microenvironmental features of the tumor tissue, mainly the chondrogenic extracellular matrix (ECM), and hypoxia. We developed and characterized a multicellular tumor spheroid (MCTS) of human chondrosarcoma HEMC-SS cells to gain insight into tumor cell biology and drug response. At Day 7, HEMC-SS spheroids exhibited a homogeneous distribution of proliferative Ki-67 positive cells, whereas in larger spheroids (Day 14 and Day 20), proliferation was mainly localized in the periphery. In the core of larger spheroids, apoptotic cells were evidenced by TUNEL assay, and hypoxia by pimonidazole staining. Interestingly, VEGF excretion, evidenced by ELISA on culture media, was detectable from Day 14 spheroids, and increased as the spheroids grew in size. HEMC-SS spheroids synthesized a chondrogenic extracellular matrix rich in glycosaminoglycans and type-2 collagen. Finally, we investigated the sensitivity of Day 7 and Day 14 chondrosarcoma MCTS to hypoxia-activated prodrug TH-302 and doxorubicin compared with their 2D counterparts. As expected, TH-302 exhibited higher cytotoxic activity on larger hypoxic spheroids (Day 14) than on non-hypoxic spheroids (Day 7), with multicellular resistance index (MCRI) values of 7.7 and 9.1 respectively. For doxorubicin, the larger-sized spheroids exhibited higher drug resistance (MCRI of 5.0 for Day 7 and 18.3 for Day 14 spheroids), possibly due to impeded drug penetration into the deep layer of spheroids, evidenced by its auto-fluorescence property. We have developed a model of human chondrosarcoma MCTS that combines an ECM rich in glycosaminoglycans with a high hypoxic core associated with VEGF excretion. This model could offer a more predictive in vitro chondrosarcoma system for screening drugs targeting tumor cells and their microenvironment.
Voissiere, A., Jouberton, E., Maubert, E., Degoul, F., Peyrode, C., Chezal, J. M., & Miot-Noirault, E. (2017). Development and characterization of a human three-dimensional chondrosarcoma culture for in vitro drug testing. PLoS ONE, 12(7). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0181340