Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science


Biomedical Engineering

First Advisor

Andrew Yeudall


HNSCC accounts for 7 percent of all new cancer occurrences. Despite currently available treatments, there continues to be a high mortality and recurrence rate in HNSCC. Well over 50 percent of all cancer patients receive chemotherapy as a standard treatment. However, only 5 percent of these cases have been shown to help with treatment of the disease. Formerly, two options were available for drug testing: in vivo animal models, and in vitro two-dimensional models. While in vivo models remain the most representative, their use is burdened by high costs, time constraints, and ethical concerns. 2D models are simple to use and cost effective, although they have been shown to produce inaccurate data regarding chemotherapeutic drug resistance due to their 2D arrangement and altered gene expression. Researchers for the past decade have been working to create 3D models that more accurately represent in vivo systems in order to evaluate chemotherapeutic efficacy and improve clinical outcomes. In line with this agenda, novel 3D head and neck cancer models were created out of electrospun synthetic polymers seeded with either HN6 or HN12 cancer cells. The models were then treated with chemotherapeutic drugs (either paclitaxel or cisplatin), and, after 72 hours, subjected to a live-dead assay in order to determine the cytotoxic effects of the drugs. 2D cultures of HN6 and HN12 were also and subject to a WST-1 assay after 72 hours. The results of the treated-scaffold assays were then compared to the results of the 2D culture assays, and, as predicted, the cancer cells in a 3D culture system proved to be more resistant to chemotherapeutic drugs. The underlying assumption for this study being that a 3D culture system based on precisely defined structural parameters would provide a practical environment to screen therapeutics for anti-cancer efficacy. To prove this, 3D scaffolds of three different fiber sizes were developed by electrospinning different concentrations of Poly(L-lactic acid) (“PLLA”) (55mg/ml, 115mg/ml, and 180mg/ml) onto a mandrel that was perforated to allow for increased porosity. The resultant small, medium, and large scaffolds were then subjected to concentrated hydrochloric acid (HCl) pretreatment in order to make them less hydrophobic. Different fiber diameters represented different ECM environments for both HN6 and HN12. It was proven that both cell types thrived best in small fibers (55mg/ml-115mg/ml) than in large fibers. It was also reaffirmed through live-dead anlaysis of cells seeded on 3D scaffolds and treated with IC90 values of cisplatin that the head and neck cancer cells were more resistant which is more representative to the 3D environment of cancer cells in vivo.


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