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

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 o
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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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