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Watching tumors burst through a blood vessel

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Follow
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  • 7 years ago
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Cancer cells metastasize in several stages — first by invading surrounding tissue, then by infiltrating and spreading via the circulatory system. Some circulating cells work their way out of the vascular network, eventually forming a secondary tumor.

While the initial process by which cancer cells enter the bloodstream — called intravasation — is well characterized, how cells escape blood vessels to permeate other tissues and organs is less clear. This process, called extravasation, is a crucial step in cancer metastasis.

Now researchers at MIT have developed a microfluidic device that mimics the flow of cancer cells through a system of blood vessels. Using high-resolution time-lapse imaging, the researchers captured the moments as a cancer cell squeezes its way through a blood vessel wall into the surrounding extracellular matrix. The process is "highly dynamic," as they write in a paper published in the journal Integrative Biology; a better understanding of it may help scientists identify therapies to prevent metastasis.

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Video clips courtesy of Michelle Chen
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