High-content analysis of tumour cell invasion in three-dimensional spheroid assays

Vinton Cheng1, Filomena Esteves1, Aruna Chakrabarty2, Julia Cockle1, Susan Short1,2,*, Anke Brüning-Richardson1,*

1 Leeds Institute of Cancer and Pathology, University of Leeds, UK

2 St. James’s University Hospital, Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, UK

* Joint last authors


Anke Brüning-Richardson, email:

Keywords: Glioma, spheroids, invasion, 3D immunohistochemistry

Received: April 15, 2015 Accepted: June 11, 2015 Published: June 14, 2015


Targeting infiltrating tumour cells is an attractive way of combating cancer invasion and metastasis. Here we describe a novel and reproducible method for high content analysis of invading cells using multicellular tumour spheroid assays in a high grade glioma model. Live cell imaging of spheroids generated from glioma cell lines, U87 and U251, gave insight into migration dynamics and cell morphology in response to anti-migratory drugs. Immunofluorescence imaging confirmed cytoskeletal rearrangements in the treated cells indicating a direct effect on cell morphology. Effect on migration was determined by a Migration Index (MI) from brightfield images which confirmed anti-migratory activity of the drugs. A marked effect on the core with treatment suggestive of disordered proliferation was also observed. A newly developed technique to prepare the spheroids and migratory cells for immunohistochemistry allowed an assessment of response to drug treatment with a selection of markers. A difference in protein expression was noted between cells maintained within the core and migratory cells indicative of the presence of cell subpopulations within the spheroid core. We conclude that this high content analysis allows researchers to perform screening of anti-tumour invasion compounds and study their effects on cellular dynamics, particularly in relation to protein expression, for the first time.

PII: 171