Cancer cells soften as they metastasize, study suggests

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The researchers hope that their work could lead to the development of new drugs that can interfere with cell softening and thus disrupt metastasis.


(Anne Trafton/ MIT News) — When cancer cells metastasize, they often travel in the bloodstream to a remote tissue or organ, where they then escape by squeezing through the blood vessel wall and entering the site of metastasis. A study from MIT now shows that tumor cells become much softer as they undergo this process.

The findings suggest that drugs that prevent cells from softening could potentially slow or halt metastasis. Metastatic tumors are estimated to be present in about 90 percent of patients who die of cancer.

“We have long thought that if we could identify the barriers that a cancer cell has to overcome to form a metastatic tumor, that new drugs could be found and lives could be saved,” says Roger Kamm, the Cecil and Ida Green Distinguished Professor of Biological and Mechanical Engineering and an author of the study. (…)

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