Anticancer drug discovery using multicellular tumor spheroid models

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Introduction: Despite the increasing financial outlay on cancer research and drug discovery, many advanced cancers remain incurable. One possible strategy for increasing the approval rate of new anticancer drugs for use in clinical practice could be represented by three-dimensional (3D) tumor models on which to perform in vitro drug screening. There is a general consensus among the scientific community that 3D tumor models more closely recapitulate the complexity of tumor tissue architecture and biology than bi-dimensional cell cultures. In a 3D context, cells are connected to each other through tissue junctions and show proliferative and metabolic gradients that resemble the intricate milieu of organs and tumors. Areas covered: The present review focuses on available techniques for generating tumor spheroids and discusses current and future applications in the field of drug discovery. The article is based on literature obtained from PubMed. Expert opinion: Given the relative simplicity of spheroid models with respect to clinical tumors, we must be careful not to overestimate the reliability of their drug-response prediction capacity. The next challenge is to combine our knowledge of co-culture methodologies with high-content imaging and advanced microfluidic technologies to improve the readout and biomimetic potential of spheroid-based models.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)289-301
Number of pages13
JournalExpert Opinion on Drug Discovery
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 4 2019


  • Anticancer drug discovery
  • high throughput assay
  • in vitro 3D models
  • preclinical drug evaluation
  • tumor spheroids

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Drug Discovery


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