Primary liver cancer, consisting predominantly of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) and cholangiocarcinoma (CCA), remains one of the most lethal malignancies worldwide. This high malignancy is related to the complex and dynamic interactions between tumour cells, stromal cells and the extracellular environment. Novel in vitro models that can recapitulate the tumour are essential in increasing our understanding of liver cancer. Herein, primary liver cancer-derived organoids have opened up new avenues due to their patient-specificity, self-organizing ability and potential recapitulation of many of the tumour properties. Organoids are solely of epithelial origin, but incorporation into co-culture models can enable the investigation of the cellular component of the tumour microenvironment. However, the extracellular component also plays a vital role in cancer progression and representation is lacking within current in vitro models. In this review, organoid technology is discussed in the context of liver cancer models through comparisons to other cell culture systems. In addition, the role of the tumour extracellular environment in primary liver cancer will be highlighted with an emphasis on its importance in in vitro modelling. Converging novel organoid-based models with models incorporating the native tumour microenvironment could lead to experimental models that can better recapitulate liver tumours in vivo.

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Department of Surgery

van Tienderen, G.S. (Gilles S.), Groot Koerkamp, B., IJzermans, J., van der Laan, L., & Verstegen, M. (2019). Recreating tumour complexity in a dish: Organoid models to study liver cancer cells and their extracellular environment. Cancers (Vol. 11). doi:10.3390/cancers11111706