Understanding how a cell works normally is hard enough for biologists. Understanding how a cancerous cell works is exponentially harder—there are different stages of tumorigenesis and countless different types of cancer and countless different environments within the body. Today’s image is from a study that takes a systematic approach to understanding the interactions between cancerous cells and their environment.
The progression of tumor cells to metastatic cancer cells correlates with poor prognoses for cancer patients. The steps that drive cancer cells to spread (metastasis) are not well understood, but may be effective targets for chemotherapies. For example, tumor cells lose adhesion to their underlying extracellular matrix (ECM) prior to spreading to other regions of the body. Understanding this loss of cell-ECM adhesion may guide the development of new therapies. A recent paper describes the systematic analysis of cell-ECM adhesion in tumor cells by using robotically spotted arrays of 768 paired combinations of ECM molecules. Reticker-Flynn and colleagues monitored the adhesion profiles of lung cancer cell lines at different stages of cancer progression on these arrays of ECM molecules, and found ECM-cell interactions that may be successful therapeutic targets. The images above show an array of spotted ECM protein combinations (visible through immuno- and fluorescent-labeling, top), and examples of cells adhered to the ECM spots (bottom images).
Reticker-Flynn, N., Malta, D., Winslow, M., Lamar, J., Xu, M., Underhill, G., Hynes, R., Jacks, T., & Bhatia, S. (2012). A combinatorial extracellular matrix platform identifies cell-extracellular matrix interactions that correlate with metastasis Nature Communications, 3 DOI: 10.1038/ncomms2128
Adapted by permission from Macmillan Publishers Ltd, copyright ©2012