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Unexpected toughness may mark out cancer cells in the blood
Date:12/4/2012

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 (http://dx.plos.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0050973).

"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
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Contact: Jennifer Brown
jennifer-l-brown@uiowa.edu
319-356-7124
University of Iowa Health Care
Source:Eurekalert  

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