OCT 17, 2013 12:00 PM PDT

Cells in Action: Why Cancer Cells Leave the Tumors?

140 48 2516

  • Assistant Professor, Department of Surgery,, Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School
      Dr. Irimia is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Surgery at the Massachusetts General Hospital, Shriners Hospitals for Children in Boston, and Harvard Medical School. He is leading a research program that is focused on studying the roles of cellular migration in health and disease. Dr. Irimia is interested in probing the role of cancer cell migration during cancer invasion and tumor metastasis. He is also very interested in understanding how the ability of white blood cells to move and protect against microbes is being affected during the systemic inflammation responses after burn and trauma injuries. For this research, he is employing the most advanced microscale technologies which enable us to design new tools and measure cell migration with better precision than ever before.


    Invading cancer cells leave the tumor to form distant metastases and are ultimately responsible for 90% of deaths in cancer. Reducing the ability of cancer cells to invade and metastasize could extend the life of cancer patients. However, our current understanding of the conditions that trigger and guide the invasion of cancer cells is insufficient and our abilities to interfere with these processes are limited. By using novel microfluidic tools, we uncovered an unexpected ability of cancer cells to navigate and exit microscopic mazes along the shortest path. To explain this behavior, we propose a novel mechanism that guides cancer cell migration. This mechanism depends on the generation of spatial chemical gradients by the cancer cell themselves, through the competition between epidermal growth factor (EGF) uptake by the cells and the restricted diffusion of EGF from surrounding microenvironment to the cells. Employing this strategy when placed in uniform but confined environments, cancer cells can self-generate spatial gradients of EGF, effectively mapping the environment, and guiding their own escape from the confinement. Better understanding of the cancer cell guidance strategy by self-generated gradients could lead to approaches for restricting the migration of malignant cells to delay local invasion and distant metastases. Learning objectives: - Identify the environment settings that trigger self-guided cell migration; - Recognize the conditions that favor cancer cell invasion; - Predict the patterns of cancer cell migration in various conditions of confinement; - Suggest interventions that may perturb the self-guidance of cancer cells.

    Show Resources
    Loading Comments...