J Cancer 2016; 7(15):2333-2340. doi:10.7150/jca.15812

Research Paper

An In Vitro Inverted Vertical Invasion Assay to Avoid Manipulation of Rare or Sensitive Cell Types

Tanner J. McArdle1, Brenda M. Ogle1,2,3,4,5, Felicite K. Noubissi1,2,3,4,5,6 ✉

1. Department of Biomedical Engineering, University of Minnesota - Twin Cities;
2. Stem Cell Institute, University of Minnesota - Twin Cities;
3. Masonic Cancer Center, University of Minnesota - Twin Cities;
4. Lillehei Heart Institute, University of Minnesota - Twin Cities;
5. Institute for Engineering in Medicine, University of Minnesota - Twin Cities;
6. Department of Biology, Jackson State University.


The ability to quantify cell migration and invasion is critical in the study of cancer metastasis. Current invasion assays, such as the Boyden Chamber, present difficulties in the measurement of the invasion of cells that are few in number and are intrinsically tied to the cell microenvironment. There exists a need for a three-dimensional invasion assay that is easily reproduced, accessible for most laboratories, and requires no displacement of cells from their original microenvironment. Here we present a simple design for an inverted vertical invasion assay able to assess the invasion capabilities of cells in a three dimensional, extracellular matrix-based environment without displacement from the original culture location. We used the assay to determine the migratory capacity of hybrids between mesenchymal/multipotent stem/stroma cells (MSCs) and breast cancer cells MCF7. These hybrids are formed reliably but rarely (1 in 1,000 cells) and for this reason require an invasion assay that does not involve extensive cell manipulation. Using this assay, we found that MSCs, breast cancer cells, and corresponding fusion products are able to migrate and invade through the extracellular matrix and that hybrids invade in a manner more similar to stromal cells than cancer cells. Thus, this assay can aid the study of the invasive capacity of both cancerous cells and associated fusion hybrids and could augment testing of therapeutic strategies to inhibit metastatic spread.

Keywords: invasion, hybrids, metastasis, 3D assay, collagen.

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How to cite this article:
McArdle TJ, Ogle BM, Noubissi FK. An In Vitro Inverted Vertical Invasion Assay to Avoid Manipulation of Rare or Sensitive Cell Types. J Cancer 2016; 7(15):2333-2340. doi:10.7150/jca.15812. Available from http://www.jcancer.org/v07p2333.htm