Medical Research

Vanderbilt University

Cynthia Reinhart-King, Qi Liu, Jing Wang
Nashville, TN
June 2020

The current paradigm for the metastatic progression of solid tumors is that cells from a primary tumor migrate into the surrounding tissue, enter blood vessels, and travel to a secondary site.  Cell migration is widely viewed as a critical step in metastasis, which is evident based on the prolific number of published research papers involving cell migration in cancer.  Contrary to this understanding, investigators at Vanderbilt University have generated surprising data, which show that the ability of cells to migrate does not correlate with metastasis.  In this proposal, the overall goal is to identify the key facets of cells which are critical for metastasis and, separately, which are critical for migration.  The search for cancer cell biomarkers is typically performed using molecular screens across cell populations.  Using an engineering approach, the investigators will sort cells based on behavior first (a phenotypic screen), focusing on the outliers to identify the most robust drivers of cell migration and metastasis.  The proposed engineering-based approach has the potential to uncover previously hidden targets to prevent metastasis.  This work directly challenges the prevailing paradigm that migration is essential for metastasis, which has motivated tens of thousands of journal papers and millions of research dollars, and it will significantly expand our knowledge of cell migration and drivers of metastasis.

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