Breast cancer is one of the most commonly diagnosed cancers among American women, and while early detection and intervention have led to a reduction in the associated mortality rate over the past few decades, the development of targeted, patient-specific therapies promises greater success in treating the progressed disease. For example, estrogen receptor (ER), which is expressed by tumors in a subset of breast cancer patients, can facilitate expression of genes responsible for growth and proliferation of breast cancer cells, and thus represents an attractive therapeutic target.
Given the rapid pace and growing expense of therapeutic development, high-content, in vitro screening approaches represent an attractive approach for assaying target-specific effects of novel drug candidates. However, since cell-extracellular matrix (ECM) interactions, which may not be well represented in traditional 2D cell culture models, are often crucial to the expression of drug targets, the application of 2D cell culture models is not always the most effective means to screening targeted therapeutic compounds. Specifically, in the context of breast cancer, several investigations have reported a loss of ER-expression throughout standard 2D culture.