Ex vivo propagation in a novel 3D high-throughput co-culture system for multiple myeloma

Johannes M. Waldschmidt, Stefan J. Fruttiger, Dagmar Wider, Johannes Jung, Andreas R. Thomsen, Tanja N. Hartmann, Justus Duyster, Martin J. Hug, Kareem A. Azab, Manfred Jung, Ralph Wäsch, Monika Engelhardt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Purpose: Multiple myeloma (MM) remains an incurable hematologic malignancy which ultimately develops drug resistance and evades treatment. Despite substantial therapeutic advances over the past years, the clinical failure rate of preclinically promising anti-MM drugs remains substantial. More realistic in vitro models are thus required to better predict clinical efficacy of a preclinically active compound. Methods: Here, we report on the establishment of a conical agarose 3D co-culture platform for the preclinical propagation of primary MM cells ex vivo. Cell growth was compared to yet established 2D and liquid overlay systems. MM cell lines (MMCL: RPMI-8226, U266, OPM-2) and primary patient specimens were tested. Drug sensitivity was examined by exploring the cytotoxic effect of bortezomib and the deubiquitinase inhibitor auranofin under various conditions. Results: In contrast to 2D and liquid overlay, cell proliferation in the 3D array followed a sigmoidal curve characterized by an initial growth delay but more durable proliferation of MMCL over 12 days of culture. Primary MM specimens did not expand in ex vivo monoculture, but required co-culture support by a human stromal cell line (HS-5, MSP-1). HS-5 induced a > fivefold increase in cluster volume and maintained long-term viability of primary MM cells for up to 21 days. Bortezomib and auranofin induced less cytotoxicity under 3D vs. 2D condition and in co- vs. monoculture, respectively. Conclusions: This study introduces a novel model that is capable of long-term propagation and drug testing of primary MM specimens ex vivo overcoming some of the pitfalls of currently available in vitro models.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1045-1055
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Cancer Research and Clinical Oncology
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • Auranofin
  • Bone marrow microenvironment
  • Bortezomib
  • Drug discovery
  • In vitro modeling
  • Multiple myeloma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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