Bioprinting the Cancer Microenvironment

Yu Shrike Zhang, Margaux Duchamp, Rahmi Oklu, Leif W. Ellisen, Robert Langer, Ali Khademhosseini

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

114 Scopus citations


Cancer is intrinsically complex, comprising both heterogeneous cellular compositions and microenvironmental cues. During the various stages of cancer initiation, development, and metastasis, cell-cell interactions (involving vascular and immune cells besides cancerous cells) as well as cell-extracellular matrix (ECM) interactions (e.g., alteration in stiffness and composition of the surrounding matrix) play major roles. Conventional cancer models both two- and three-dimensional (2D and 3D) present numerous limitations as they lack good vascularization and cannot mimic the complexity of tumors, thereby restricting their use as biomimetic models for applications such as drug screening and fundamental cancer biology studies. Bioprinting as an emerging biofabrication platform enables the creation of high-resolution 3D structures and has been extensively used in the past decade to model multiple organs and diseases. More recently, this versatile technique has further found its application in studying cancer genesis, growth, metastasis, and drug responses through creation of accurate models that recreate the complexity of the cancer microenvironment. In this review we will focus first on cancer biology and limitations with current cancer models. We then detail the current bioprinting strategies including the selection of bioinks for capturing the properties of the tumor matrices, after which we discuss bioprinting of vascular structures that are critical toward construction of complex 3D cancer organoids. We finally conclude with current literature on bioprinted cancer models and propose future perspectives.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1710-1721
Number of pages12
JournalACS Biomaterials Science and Engineering
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 10 2016


  • bioprinting
  • cancer biology
  • cancer model
  • drug screening
  • vascularization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biomaterials
  • Biomedical Engineering


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