Pathologic and in vivo experimental evidence tells us that cancer cells like to travel in groups as they leave a tumor site to spread cancer to other parts of the body. In this project, we investigate the forces involved in organizing the collective migration of breast cancer cells in both 2D and 3D environments. We study friction and traction, as well as the active and passive forces present in the cell microenvironment, that is, the extracellular matrix (ECM), in both 2D and 3D cell culture and in vivo. Cell-cell and cell-ECM interactions will be measured. Computational models will help predict experimental results and vice versa.

This project has four aims:

  • To determine an integrated experimental and computational model of how tumor cell-intrinsic changes in adhesion influence collective migration
  • To determine how changes in the tumor environment affect collective migration of tumor cells
  • To determine how cell-cell and cell-ECM forces influence the nature of tumor cell collective migration in clinically relevant primary human breast tumor samples
  • To develop a computational model of collective cell migration dynamics in tissues

Project Leader: Denis Wirtz

Co-Investigators; Daniele Gilkes, Gregory Longmore, Sean Sun, and Pei Hsun Wu