Addressing the tumour microenvironment in early drug discovery: a strategy to overcome drug resistance and identify novel targets for cancer therapy

Elke Kaemmerer, Daniela Loessner, Vicky M. Avery

Research output: Contribution to journalReview ArticleResearchpeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


The tumour microenvironment (TME) comprises not only malignant and non-malignant cells, but also the extracellular matrix (ECM), secreted factors, and regulators of cellular functions. In addition to genetic alterations, changes of the biochemical/biophysical properties or cellular composition of the TME have been implicated in drug resistance. Here, we review the composition of the ECM and different elements of the TME contributing to drug resistance, including soluble factors, hypoxia, extracellular acidity, and cell adhesion properties. We discuss selected approaches for modelling the TME, current progress, and their use in low-and high-throughput assays for preclinical studies. Lastly, we summarise the status quo of advanced 3D cancer models compatible with high-throughput screening (HTS), the technical practicalities and challenges. The tumour microenvironment, and changes thereof, are key aspects in mediating drug resistance. Capturing these factors in representative, disease-specific in vitro models in early drug discovery efforts would improve drug discovery outcomes; however, to date, this remains challenging.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)663-676
Number of pages14
JournalDrug Discovery Today
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2021

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