Studying Tumor Cell Invasion
Cancer metastasis accounts for over 90 percent of all cancer deaths. A limiting step in cancer metastatic cascade—when cancer cells spread from one organ to another—is for tumor cells to migrate towards, interact with, and squeeze through the blood vessel wall before disseminating to secondary tumor sites via the blood. Biophysical forces, including interstitial and intramural flows, have been shown to play critical roles in regulating the molecules and tissue architecture that allow this cascade to occur. Despite the clinical importance, the roles of biophysical forces in tumor cell transendothelial migration (TEM) are poorly understood.
Mingming Wu, Biological and Environmental Engineering, and her team are developing an advanced in vitro tool for screening microenvironment cues that promote cancer cell dissemination. Working with cancer biologist Jeffrey E. Segall (Albert Einstein College of Medicine), they are creating a physiologically-realistic microfluidic model and a well-controlled tumor microenvironment for studies of tumor cell TEM processes. This model will help identify the tumor microenvironment that promotes TEM and metastasis. In particular, the model will allow researchers to study the effect of fluid flows on tumor cell migration and will be the first of its kind to simulate both interstitial and intramural flows, flows within tissues and flows within blood and lymphatic vessels, respectively. The model will therefore improve the current microfluidic tumor model by better reflecting real-life conditions. Results will eventually help in the development of novel diagnostic and treatment strategies for cancer. NIH Award Number: 1R01CA221346-01