WSU proves extracellular matrix tugging creates come hither stimulus for cancer migration

March 22, 2011

Ninety percent of cancer deaths resulted from metastasis, the spread of cancer to different areas in the body, yet scientific exploration of the possible mechanical factors that promote metastasis has been limited. A Wayne State University researcher, however, is expanding the scientific understanding of what makes malignant tumors spread, and the answer lies within the dense, fibrous matrix that surrounds cancer cells.

Karen A. Beningo, Ph.D., assistant professor of biology in WSU's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and resident of Plymouth, Mich., has found that the continuous restructuring of the extracellular matrix that upholds the weight of a tumor is one of the reasons highly invasive, are mechanically able to spread to other parts of the body. Beningo's study was recently published in .

"This study has identified a novel physical parameter and a new conceptual framework in which to assess the process of invasion, not just of but other invasive cell types as well," said Beningo.

Beningo simulated the tugging and pulling forces by embedding magnetic microbeads in the collagen matrix of a three-dimensional, cell-based assay. This way, she was able to examine the physical mechanisms "without the complication of secreted biochemical factors," she said.

"Surprisingly, we found that cancer cells were two to four times more likely to invade if the matrix was magnetically stimulated than if the culture was not stimulated," said Beningo.

She also found that less invasive tumors were not as stimulated by the tugging and pulling forces of the extracellular matrix as highly invasive tumors. Moreover, the absence of fibronectin, a component of the , and cofilin, a , removed the tumor's sensitivity to the mechanical "come hither" stimulus.

"We can conclusively state that fibronectin and cofilin are required for this mechanical response," said Beningo.

Beningo is working toward defining the mechanism of mechanically enhanced invasion and hopes to identify therapeutic targets.

"If we can prevent the invasive movement of cancer cells from the primary tumor, a large battle in the war on cancer will have been won," she said.

Financial support for the study was provided by Wayne State University.

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Deworming pill may be effective in treating liver cancer

March 30, 2017

Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), a cancer associated with underlying liver disease and cirrhosis that often only becomes symptomatic when it is very advanced, is the second leading cause of cancer deaths around the world, ...

Study shows how BPA may affect inflammatory breast cancer

March 29, 2017

The chemical bisphenol A, or BPA, appears to aid the survival of inflammatory breast cancer cells, revealing a potential mechanism for how the disease grows, according to a study led by researchers in the Department of Surgery ...

Gene research gives new insight into pancreatic cancer

March 29, 2017

One reason pancreatic cancer has a particularly low survival rate is the difficulty in getting drugs to the tumour, but new knowledge of how pancreatic cancer cells invade neighbouring cells could change that.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.