Contact Guidance during Breast Cancer Cell Metastasis

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Cancer invasion and metastasis, processes in which primary tumor cells migrate to neighbor tissues and eventually colonize distal organs, are major life-threatening events in cancer patients. Now growing research studies are indicating that physical guidance from the surrounding matrix that cancer cells encounter is a key regulator of cancer invasion and metastasis. This phenomenon is termed as contact guidance. The cancer cells are more than just bad. They are also "smart". They are able to reorganize the surrounding matrix to facilitate their migration. However, how cancer cells sense the structural features and what determines their response are still poorly understood. In collaboration with Drs. Wolfgang Losert and John T. Fourkas groups at the University of Maryland, we tackled this problem by using surfaces with sophisticated nanoscale patterns and multiple human breast cancer cell lines. So far, we discovered that all of the breast cancer cell lines used in our study are able to sense and respond to the physical guidance cues. Surprisingly, they do so in distinct ways. We hypothesize that their diverse responses are dependent on distinct intrinsic characteristics of the cancer cell lines. In the future, we aim to identify these major intrinsic elements of the cancer cell lines by using pharmacological and genetic manipulations. 

Representative publication:

  •  Song Chen, Matt J. Hourwitz, Leonard Campanello, John T. Fourkas, Wolfgang Losert and Carole A. Parent*, Actin   Cytoskeleton and  Focal Adhesions Regulate the Biased Migration of Breast Cancer Cells on Nanoscale Sawteeth,   ACS Nano 2019 13 (2), 1454-1468, DOI: 10.1021/acsnano.8b0714