Navigation Links
Unexpected toughness may mark out cancer cells in the blood

A surprising discovery about the physical properties of cancer cells could help improve a new diagnostic approach a liquid biopsy that detects, measures, and evaluates cancer cells in blood.

Cancer cells circulating in the bloodstream can form metastases new tumors. Detecting these rare circulating cancer cells in a blood sample is much less invasive than a standard tumor biopsy, and could prove useful for monitoring cancer progression and detecting recurrence.

While studying what happens to cancer cells when they are subjected to powerful fluid forces, like those encountered in the bloodstream, researchers at the University of Iowa unexpectedly discovered that cancer cells are actually more likely to survive this turbulent fluid environment than normal epithelial cells. The researchers suggest this surprising "hardiness" could be a potential biomarker for detecting and studying cancer cells in the blood. The findings were published Dec. 3 in the journal PLOS ONE (

"For many years, it's been assumed that these circulating cancer cells are quite fragile, and they essentially get 'blended' by the fluid forces in the blood," says Michael Henry, Ph.D., associate professor of molecular physiology and biophysics at the UI Carver College of Medicine and lead study author. "But there was no real direct evidence for how fluid forces in the blood affect cancer cells.

"What we found was that normal cells were, as expected, quite sensitive to the fluid forces and most did not survive. But, surprisingly, the cancer cells seemed to be remarkably resistant."

Henry suggests that resistance to fluid shear stress might be a way to distinguish benign from malignant cells in circulating tumor cell samples.

"By adding this really simple physical test to the isolation of circulating tumor cells, this technique might let us sort out malignant cells from benign cells. Being able to quantify the numbers of 'dangerous' cells might be a more accurate prognostic marker for the patient than simply counting the total number of circulating tumor cells," says Henry, who also is deputy director for research with Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center at the UI.

A simple system

Using a simple syringe and precise mathematical calculations of fluid dynamics, the UI team created an experimental system to mimic the short bursts of turbulent flow that a cancer cell might experience in the blood. Passing a suspension of cells through the syringe needle allowed the researchers to study the effect of a series of millisecond pulses of high fluid shear stress on a variety of different cancer cell types (prostate, breast, and melanoma) as well as normal epithelial cells from breast and prostate tissue.

After 10 passages though the syringe needle at high flow rate, around half of the cancer cells were still alive. In contrast, very few normal epithelial cells survived the process.

Closer examination of the cell survival data revealed an additional twist. The rate at which the cancer cells are destroyed by passage through the syringe is not constant over all 10 passages. Instead, exposure to fluid shear stress during the earlier passages seems to trigger adaptive responses in cancer cells that actually increase the cells' resistance to fluid shear stress.

The UI team went on to show that this "toughening up" process appears to involve expression of common cancer-causing genes. They also showed that blocking the signaling pathway controlled by one of these oncogenes reduced the cancer cells' resistance to fluid shear stress.

Many different cellular pathways can go wrong to create cancer cells. Henry suggests that this newly discovered physical characteristic of cancer cells may be a common, convergent manifestation of these various, separate molecular abnormalities.

If that is true, simply measuring cancer cells' ability to resist fluid shear stresses might allow researchers to examine the behavior of cancer cells and investigate the effects of cancer drugs on tumor cells.

Translating to clinical

With the surprising findings and their potential for clinical use, the study has grown from a side project of study author and then-graduate student J. Matthew Barnes, and has now garnered external funding to support further research. Jones Nauseef, study author and a UI MSTP student in Henry's lab, has taken up the research, and Henry has established a collaboration with UI urologist James Brown, M.D., to test the technique with blood samples from patients with prostate cancer. That study is being funded by a grant from the Department of Defense.

"A next step for us is to translate these findings into patient specimens and determine whether this can be useful in a context that is clinically meaningful," Henry says, such as determining whether a cancer is progressing or if it may respond to a particular therapy.

Contact: Jennifer Brown
University of Iowa Health Care

Related medicine news :

1. University of Tennessee study: Unexpected microbes fighting harmful greenhouse gas
2. Unexpected findings at multi-detector CT scans: Less reason to worry
3. Flu shot during pregnancy shows unexpected benefits in large study
4. Grief is not a disease, but cancer is -- what about erectile dysfunction?
5. American Society of Clinical Oncology issues annual report on state of clinical cancer science
6. Cancer screening: The efficacy of mammography screening
7. Clinical trial at GHSU Cancer Center targets advanced prostate cancer
8. New DNA-Based Blood Test May Spot Signs of Cancer
9. Aspirin May Reduce Risk of Liver Cancer, Death From Liver Disease
10. Johns Hopkins scientists pair blood test and gene sequencing to detect cancer
11. COUP-TFII sparks prostate cancer progression
Post Your Comments:
Related Image:
Unexpected toughness may mark out cancer cells in the blood
(Date:11/27/2015)... ... November 27, 2015 , ... ... convenient way to dispense prescription medications at home, so he invented the patent-pending ... monitor and dispense prescription medications. In doing so, it could help to prevent ...
(Date:11/27/2015)... ... , ... MPWH, the No.1 Herpes-only dating community in the world, revealed that over 50% of ... than 3.7 billion people under the age of 50 – or 67% of the population ... global estimates of HSV-1 infection . , "The data shocks us highly!" said Michelle ...
(Date:11/27/2015)... ... November 27, 2015 , ... ... online platform for mental health and wellness consultation, has collaborated with a leading ... bridge the knowledge gap experienced by parents and bring advice from parenting experts ...
(Date:11/27/2015)... ... November 27, 2015 , ... Indosoft ... announces the incorporation of Asterisk 11 LTS (Long Term Support) into its Q-Suite ... LTS brings Q-Suite 5.10 up-to-date with a version of Asterisk that will receive ...
(Date:11/26/2015)... ... 2015 , ... The Catalent Applied Drug Delivery Institute today ... dose form selection in early phase drug development. The first of these is ... together the UK’s emerging life sciences companies, corporate partners, and investors, at Milton ...
Breaking Medicine News(10 mins):
(Date:11/26/2015)... 2015 Research and Markets ( ) has ... Market Outlook to 2019 - Rise in Cardiac Disorders and ... report to their offering. Boston ... scientific and others. --> The ... Boston scientific and others. ...
(Date:11/26/2015)... -- Research and Markets ( ) has ... Horizons and Growth Strategies in the Japanese Therapeutic ... Forecasts, Competitive Intelligence, Emerging Opportunities" report to ... --> This new 247-page report provides ... monitoring market, including emerging tests, technologies, instrumentation, sales ...
(Date:11/26/2015)... DUBLIN , November 26, 2015 ... has announced the addition of the  ... in the Global Cell Surface Testing ... Opportunities" report to their offering.  ... the addition of the  "2016 Future ...
Breaking Medicine Technology: