Micrometastatic drug screening platform shows heterogeneous response to MAP chemotherapy in osteosarcoma cell lines

Christopher D. Collier, Emily C. Wirtz, Gabrielle J. Knafler, William Z. Morris, Patrick J. Getty, Edward M. Greenfield

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Background: Approximately 80% of patients with osteosarcoma harbor subclinical pulmonary micrometastases at diagnosis. Conventional chemotherapy includes methotrexate, doxorubicin, and cisplatin (MAP); however, this regimen and thus overall survival (60%-70%) have remained largely unchanged for 30 years. It therefore is necessary to identify novel therapeutics targeting the metastatic progression of osteosarcoma. Questions/purposes: This laboratory study explored application of osteosarcoma spheroids (sarcospheres) for drug screening with the following purposes: (1) to characterize sarcosphere size; (2) to establish accurate measurement of sarcosphere growth; (3) to confirm sarcosphere uniformity; and (4) to apply the platform to evaluate MAP chemotherapy. Methods: Sarcospheres were first characterized to establish accurate measurement of sarcosphere growth and uniform production. The refined platform then was applied to evaluate MAP chemotherapy to validate its use in drug screening. Sarcospheres were generated from highly metastatic human cell lines (143B, MG-63.3, and LM7) by centrifugation to form three-dimensional aggregates modeling micrometastases. Sarcospheres were matured for 24 hours and then incubated with or without drug from Days 0 to 2. Size was assessed by diameter and volume using brightfield microscopy. Growth was measured by volume and resazurin reduction in viable cells. Sarcosphere uniformity was assessed by diameter and resazurin reduction at Day 0 and the Z' factor, a measure of assay suitability for high-throughput screening, was calculated at Day 2. Sarcospheres were treated with individual MAP agents (0 to 1000 μmol/L) to determine concentrations at which 50% of growth from Days 0 to 2 was inhibited (GIC 50 ). Cell lines resistant to MAP in sarcospheres were treated in monolayer for comparison. Results: Sarcosphere diameter and growth from Days 0 to 2 were quantitatively dependent on the number of cells seeded and the cell line used. Accurate measurement of growth occurred after resazurin incubation for 6 hours, without EDTA-mediated permeabilization, and was correlated with the number of cells seeded and sarcosphere volume for 143B (Spearman's r: 0.98; p < 0.001), MG-63.3 (0.99; p < 0.001), and LM7 (0.98; p < 0.001). Sarcospheres met established criteria for screening applications as mean Z9 factors were greater than 0.5 for all cell lines. Response to MAP therapy was cell line-dependent, because MG-63.3 and LM7 sarcospheres exhibited greater than 2000-fold resistance to methotrexate (GIC 50 = 88 ± 36 μmol/L and 174 ± 16 μmol/L, respectively) compared with the 143B cell line (GIC 50 = 0.04 ± 0.01 μmol/L; p < 0.001 for MG-63.3 and LM7). MG-63.3 monolayers were more sensitive to methotrexate (GIC 50 = 0.01 ± 0.01 μmol/L; p < 0.001) than MG-63.3 sarcospheres, whereas LM7 monolayers remained chemoresistent (GIC 50 not reached). Conclusions: This study developed and validated a drug screening platform for progression of osteosarcoma micrometastases. It also highlights heterogeneity among osteosarcoma cell lines. These findings appear to reflect known patient-to-patient heterogeneity and underscore the importance of evaluating multiple tumor models when testing drugs for the treatment of osteosarcoma. Clinical Relevance The described approach is a promising starting point for drug screening in osteosarcoma because it is tailored to evaluate micrometastatic disease. A reliable and rapid method to identify novel therapeutics is critical to improve stagnant outcomes for patients with osteosarcoma.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1400-1411
Number of pages12
JournalClinical orthopaedics and related research
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 1 2018
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


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