Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

To revert breast cancer cells, give them the squeeze

Date:
December 17, 2012
Source:
University of California - Berkeley
Summary:
Researchers have found that compression can guide malignant breast cells back to a normal growth pattern. The findings demonstrate the influence of mechanical forces on a cell's destiny.

Shown are fluorescence images of uncompressed (left) and compressed (right) colonies of malignant breast epithelial cells. Compressed colonies are smaller and more organized.
Credit: Images courtesy of Fletcher Lab

Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have put the squeeze -- literally -- on malignant mammary cells to guide them back into a normal growth pattern.

Related Articles


The findings, presented today (Monday, Dec. 17) at the annual meeting of the American Society for Cell Biology in San Francisco, show for the first time that mechanical forces alone can revert and stop the out-of-control growth of cancer cells. This change happens even though the genetic mutations responsible for malignancy remain, setting up a nature-versus-nurture battle in determining a cell's fate.

"We are showing that tissue organization is sensitive to mechanical inputs from the environment at the beginning stages of growth and development," said principal investigator Daniel Fletcher, professor of bioengineering at UC Berkeley and faculty scientist at the Berkeley Lab. "An early signal, in the form of compression, appears to get these malignant cells back on the right track."

Throughout a woman's life, breast tissue grows, shrinks and shifts in a highly organized way in response to changes in her reproductive cycle. For instance, when forming acini, the berry-shaped structures that secrete milk during lactation, healthy breast cells will rotate as they form an organized structure. And, importantly, the cells stop growing when they are supposed to.

One of the early hallmarks of breast cancer is the breakdown of this normal growth pattern. Not only do cancer cells continue to grow irregularly when they shouldn't, recent studies have shown that they do not rotate coherently when forming acini.

While the traditional view of cancer development focuses on the genetic mutations within the cell, Mina Bissell, Distinguished Scientist at the Berkeley Lab, conducted pioneering experiments that showed that a malignant cell is not doomed to become a tumor, but that its fate is dependent on its interaction with the surrounding microenvironment. Her experiments showed that manipulation of this environment, through the introduction of biochemical inhibitors, could tame mutated mammary cells into behaving normally.

The latest work from Fletcher's lab, in collaboration with Bissell's lab, takes a major step forward by introducing the concept of mechanical rather than chemical influences on cancer cell growth. Gautham Venugopalan, a member of Fletcher's lab, conducted the new experiments as part of his recently completed Ph.D. dissertation at UC Berkeley.

"People have known for centuries that physical force can influence our bodies," said Venugopalan. "When we lift weights, our muscles get bigger. The force of gravity is essential to keeping our bones strong. Here we show that physical force can play a role in the growth -- and reversion -- of cancer cells."

Venugopalan and collaborators grew malignant breast epithelial cells in a gelatin-like substance that had been injected into flexible silicone chambers. The flexible chambers allowed the researchers to apply a compressive force in the first stages of cell development.

Over time, the compressed malignant cells grew into more organized, healthy-looking acini that resembled normal structures, compared with malignant cells that were not compressed. The researchers used time-lapse microscopy over several days to show that early compression also induced coherent rotation in the malignant cells, a characteristic feature of normal development.

Notably, those cells stopped growing once the breast tissue structure was formed, even though the compressive force had been removed.

"Malignant cells have not completely forgotten how to be healthy; they just need the right cues to guide them back into a healthy growth pattern," said Venugopalan.

Researchers further added a drug that blocked E-cadherin, a protein that helps cells adhere to their neighbors. When they did this, the malignant cells returned to their disorganized, cancerous appearance, negating the effects of compression and demonstrating the importance of cell-to-cell communication in organized structure formation.

It should be noted that the researchers are not proposing the development of compression bras as a treatment for breast cancer. "Compression, in and of itself, is not likely to be a therapy," said Fletcher. "But this does give us new clues to track down the molecules and structures that could eventually be targeted for therapies."

The National Institutes of Health helped fund this research through its Physical Science-Oncology program.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of California - Berkeley. The original article was written by Sarah Yang. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of California - Berkeley. "To revert breast cancer cells, give them the squeeze." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 17 December 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/12/121217140544.htm>.
University of California - Berkeley. (2012, December 17). To revert breast cancer cells, give them the squeeze. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 17, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/12/121217140544.htm
University of California - Berkeley. "To revert breast cancer cells, give them the squeeze." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/12/121217140544.htm (accessed December 17, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Health & Medicine News

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

UN: Up to One Million Facing Hunger in Ebola-Hit Countries

UN: Up to One Million Facing Hunger in Ebola-Hit Countries

AFP (Dec. 17, 2014) Border closures, quarantines and crop losses in West African nations battling the Ebola virus could lead to as many as one million people going hungry, UN food agencies said on Wednesday. Duration: 00:52 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
When You Lose Weight, This Is Where The Fat Goes

When You Lose Weight, This Is Where The Fat Goes

Newsy (Dec. 17, 2014) Can fat disappear into thin air? New research finds that during weight loss, over 80 percent of a person's fat molecules escape through the lungs. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Flu Outbreak Closing Schools in Ohio

Flu Outbreak Closing Schools in Ohio

AP (Dec. 17, 2014) A wave of flu illnesses has forced some Ohio schools to shut down over the past week. State officials confirmed one pediatric flu-related death, a 15-year-old girl in southern Ohio. (Dec. 17) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Yoga Could Be As Beneficial For The Heart As Walking, Biking

Yoga Could Be As Beneficial For The Heart As Walking, Biking

Newsy (Dec. 17, 2014) Yoga can help your weight, blood pressure, cholesterol and heart just as much as biking and walking does, a new study suggests. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

More Coverage


Breast Cancer Cells Growing in 3-D Matrix Revert to Normal

Dec. 17, 2012 Cancer cells in lab cultures have not "forgotten" how to be healthy since they can be guided back into their "normal" growth program by giving them the right cues. Applying ... read more

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins