Researchers at Purdue University have developed a cell culture system to examine the effects of lung motion on breast cancer metastases. The system uses magnets to provide a stretching force on a 3D culture of breast cancer cells, and the researchers hope that the technology could lead to new insights into metastases and how to treat them.
The mechanical forces acting on a cell can have significant effects. Certain tissues are in near constant motion, such as the heart and lungs, providing a unique environment for the cells that grow there. This is of interest to scientists in the context of cancer metastases, in which cancer cells migrate to distant tissues and then begin to proliferate.
“One of the key features of breast cancer is that most patients survive if the disease stays local, but there is a greater than 70% drop in survival if the cells have metastasized,” said Luis Solorio, a researcher involved in the study. “However, once the cells leave the primary tumor, they are often no longer responsive to the drugs that initially worked for the patient. We wanted to develop a system that could help us better understand how the physiology of a new tissue space effected tumor cells upon invasion into the new organ.”
The researchers developed a cell culture device to mimic a breast cancer metastatic tumor in the lungs, in which tissue undergoes repeated stretching forces during breathing. Their device includes a 3D culture of breast cancer cells grown on an extracellular matrix protein that is commonly found in early-stage lung metastases.
Using magnets, the system applies strain to the cultured cells, at the amplitude and rate that occurs in the lungs during breathing. Interestingly, the breast cancer cells stopped growing when cultured under this actuation regimen.
“Never before has the concept of motion been interrogated as a component of the tumor microenvironment,” said Michael Wendt, another researcher involved in the study. “We now understand that healthy organs utilize motion to resist metastatic colonization. The development of this microactuator system will not only continue to yield increased biological understanding, of metastasis, but it will also serve as a platform for us to better evaluate pharmacological inhibitors of the most lethal aspect of cancer progression.”
Study in Advanced Functional Materials: High‐Throughput Magnetic Actuation Platform for Evaluating the Effect of Mechanical Force on 3D Tumor Microenvironment