Generation of homogenous three-dimensional pancreatic cancer cell spheroids using an improved hanging drop technique

Matthew J. Ware, Kevin Colbert, Vazrik Keshishian, Jason Ho, Stuart J. Corr, Steven A. Curley, Biana Godin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

110 Scopus citations


In vitro characterization of tumor cell biology or of potential anticancer drugs is usually performed using tumor cell lines cultured as a monolayer. However, it has been previously shown that three-dimensional (3D) organization of the tumor cells is important to provide insights on tumor biology and transport of therapeutics. Several methods to create 3D tumors in vitro have been proposed, with hanging drop technique being the most simple and, thus, most frequently used. However, in many cell lines this method has failed to form the desired 3D tumor structures. The aim of this study was to design and test an easy-to-use and highly reproducible modification of the hanging drop method for tumor sphere formation by adding methylcellulose polymer. Most pancreatic cancer cells do not form cohesive and manageable spheres when the original hanging drop method is used, thus we investigated these cell lines for our modified hanging drop method. The spheroids produced by this improved technique were analyzed by histology, light microscopy, immunohistochemistry, and scanning electron microscopy. Results show that using the proposed simple method; we were able to produce uniform spheroids for all five of the tested human pancreatic cancer cell lines; Panc-1, BxPC-3, Capan-1, MiaPaCa-2, and AsPC-1. We believe that this method can be used as a reliable and reproducible technique to make 3D cancer spheroids for use in tumor biology research and evaluation of therapeutic responses, and for the development of bio-artificial tissues.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)312-321
Number of pages10
JournalTissue Engineering - Part C: Methods
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2016
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© Mary Ann Liebert, Inc. 2016.


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