Cancer Research – Cell Culture Tools and Troubleshooting

We recently finished our Ask the Expert discussion on “Cancer Research.” During this Ask the Expert session, we covered topics related to innovative tools and methods in cancer research. One of the topics explored was the use of spheroids and organoids and enabling technologies for cancer research. There were also several discussions around the culture of various cancer cell types, including medium and extracellular matrices choices. There was a very interesting question about new tools that are in development to aid in cancer research.

This Ask the Expert session was hosted by Corning experts Paula Flaherty, Technology Manager, Jeffrey Partridge, Senior Development Scientist, Hilary Sherman and Audrey Bergeron, both Applications Scientists. Paula has extensive experience in developing cell based assays. Jeff has over 20 years’ experience in cancer research, including using animal models as well as in vitro invasion and migration systems such as Corning® BioCoat™ Matrigel® Invasion Chambers and Corning FluoroBlok™ Cell Culture Inserts. Hilary has extensive experience with cancer cell migration, immune oncology assays and 3D cell culture. Audrey has experience with cultures and applications of primary and engineered immune cells as well as with high throughput 2D and 3D assays.

Below is a sneak peek of the discussion, for a full transcript, please see – Ask the Expert – Cancer Research


What do you think is the most successful ECM, culture vessel combination for culturing colon cancer spheroids?


A great option for this type of work would be ultra-low attachment plates like the Corning® spheroid microplate as an optimal cell culture vessel. They are easy to use, promote formation of one organoid per well of uniform size and allow for fluorescent, luminescent and imaging assays to be conducted right in the culture plate. As far as ECMs, Corning Matrigel® matrix has always been considered the gold standard. It is the most cited ECM and is routinely used for 3D cell culture applications. Download the Ultimate Guide to Matrigel matrix or visit Corning’s website to learn more.


There is a lot of expectation about modeling cancer organoids but is there an application of Corning Fluoroblok inserts to track immune therapy with an organoid culturing into Corning Biocoat Matrigel Invasion Chambers? In other words, can I culture an organoid in the inner compartment and then tracking the effect of the immune therapy?


Assuming you are looking to culture a cancer organoid in the apical chamber of Corning® FluoroBlok™ Cell Culture Inserts and measure immune function, then the answer is most likely.  Although it does not appear much published work has been done in this area, FluoroBlok inserts are a great choice when one is looking to exclude fluorescent signal generated by cells on the apical surface of the membrane.  Even though they are typically used for migration and invasion assays, they may find some use here. It is also possible to combine Corning 96HTS inserts with the Corning spheroid microplate in order to look at immune cell migration/invasion towards the cancer organoid. Corning scientists have done a similar assay with NK92 cells and a lung cancer cell line.

Please find some useful links below:

VideoAn In vitro FluoroBlok Tumor Invasion Assay

Webinar: Applications of Corning® FluoroBlok™ Permeable Supports

Review Article: Culture and Assay Systems Used for 3D Cell Culture

Poster: A Novel Spheroid-based Three-dimensional Invasion Model for Evaluating Potentially Anti-tumor Compounds

Application NoteA Novel Three Dimensional Immune Oncology Model for High Throughput Testing of Tumoricidal Capability

Product Information:

FluoroBlok Cell Culture Inserts

Corning® FluoroBlok™ Inserts Frequently Asked Questions


I don’t have a specific question but was wondering if you could tell us about which promising new cancer research tools you think will make the most impact.


There are many exciting things happening in the cancer research space, but two areas that we feel will have the largest impact on cancer research in the next few years are through improved modeling and superior imaging. An interesting trend we have noticed, is that the technologies are not necessarily all new, but have been reimagined by researchers to be used in new and innovative applications. With tools such as Ultra-low Attachment microplates and ECM’s like Corning® Matrigel® matrix researchers can create 3D cancer models that are more complex, and what’s more is that they are easier to develop and are more consistent than ever. These 3D models do a much better job capturing the complexity of the cancer environment compared to more traditionally used 2D models. Imagers that have confocal capabilities are also likely to play an important role in cancer research and personalized medicine as they can deliver so much more information than instrumentation of the past.

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