Modeling the Leukemia Microenviroment In Vitro

Cristina Scielzo, Paolo Ghia

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Over the last decade, the active role of the microenvironment in the pathogenesis, development and drug resistance of B cell malignancies has been clearly established. It is known that the tissue microenvironment promotes proliferation and drug resistance of leukemic cells suggesting that successful treatments of B cell malignancies must target the leukemic cells within these compartments. However, the cross-talk occurring between cancer cells and the tissue microenvironment still needs to be fully elucidated. In solid tumors, this lack of knowledge has led to the development of new and more complex in vitro models able to successfully mimic the in vivo settings, while only a few simplified models are available for haematological cancers, commonly relying only on the co-culture with stabilized stromal cells and/or the addition of limited cocktails of cytokines. Here, we will review the known cellular and molecular interactions occurring between monoclonal B lymphocytes and their tissue microenvironment and the current literature describing innovative in vitro models developed in particular to study chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). We will also elaborate on the possibility to further improve such systems based on the current knowledge of the key molecules/signals present in the microenvironment. In particular, we think that future models should be developed as 3D culture systems with a higher level of cellular and molecular complexity, to replicate microenvironmental-induced signaling. We believe that innovative 3D-models may therefore improve the knowledge on pathogenic mechanisms leading to the dissemination and homing of leukemia cells and consequently the identification of therapeutic targets.

Original languageEnglish
Article number607608
JournalFrontiers in Oncology
Publication statusPublished - Dec 17 2020


  • 3D models (three dimensional)
  • B cell malignancies
  • chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL)
  • in vitro
  • microenvironment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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