Photodynamic therapy (PDT), wherein light sensitive non-toxic agents are locally and selectively activated using light, has emerged as an appealing alternative to traditional cancer chemotherapy. Yet to date, PDT efficacy has been mostly characterized using 2D cultures. Compared to 2D cultures, 3D sphere culture generates unique spatial distributions of nutrients and oxygen for the cells that better mimics the in-vivo conditions. Using a novel polyHEMA (non-adherent polymer) fabrication process, we developed a microfluidic sphere formation platform that can (1) generate 1,024 uniform (size variation <10%) cancer spheres within a 2 cm by 2 cm core area, (2) culture spheres for more than 2 weeks, and (3) allow the retrieval of spheres. Using the presented platform, we have successfully characterized the different responses in 2D and 3D cell culture to PDT. Furthermore, we investigated the treatment resistance effect in cancer cells induced by tumor associated fibroblasts (CAF). Although the CAFs can enhance the resistance to traditional chemotherapy agents, no significant difference in PDT was observed. The preliminary results suggest that the PDT can be an attractive alternative cancer therapy, which is less affected by the therapeutic resistance induced by cancer associated cells.
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