The mechanical microenvironment in cancer: How physics affects tumours
SourceSeminars in Cancer Biology, 35, (2015), pp. 62-70
Article / Letter to editor
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Seminars in Cancer Biology
SubjectMolecular Materials; Radboudumc 17: Women's cancers RIHS: Radboud Institute for Health Sciences; Radboudumc 9: Rare cancers RIHS: Radboud Institute for Health Sciences
The tumour microenvironment contributes greatly to the response of tumour cells. It consists of chemical gradients, for example of oxygen and nutrients. However, a physical environment is also present. Apart from chemical input, cells also receive physical signals. Tumours display unique mechanical properties: they are a lot stiffer than normal tissue. This may be either a cause or a consequence of cancer, but literature suggests it has a major impact on tumour cells as will be described in this review. The mechanical microenvironment may cause malignant transformation, possibly through activation of oncogenic pathways and inhibition of tumour suppressor genes. In addition, the mechanical microenvironment may promote tumour progression by influencing processes such as epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition, enhancing cell survival through autophagy, but also affects sensitivity of tumour cells to therapeutics. Furthermore, multiple intracellular signalling pathways prove sensitive to the mechanical properties of the microenvironment. It appears the increased stiffness is unlikely to be caused by increased stiffness of the tumour cells themselves. However, there are indications that tumours display a higher cell density, making them more rigid. In addition, increased matrix deposition in the tumour, as well as increased interstitial fluid pressure may account for the increased stiffness of tumours. Overall, tumour mechanics are significantly different from normal tissue. Therefore, this feature should be further explored for use in cancer prevention, detection and treatment.
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