Metastasis

Single file through capillaries

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Science  06 May 2016:
Vol. 352, Issue 6286, pp. 669-670
DOI: 10.1126/science.352.6286.669-c

Tumor cell clusters break down to travel through tiny capillaries as single cells.

PHOTO: S. H. AU ET AL., PNAS (26 FEBRUARY 2016) © 2016 NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES

Circulating tumor cell clusters (CTCs) are thought to be too large to pass through capillaries, yet such aggregates are found in the circulation, spreading cancer to distant sites. Au et al. used a microfluidic device to visualize how they accomplish this. CTCs (of 20 cells or more) isolated from human patient blood unfold into a chain of single cells to pass through microchannels that are the same width as human capillaries. Once through, the linked cells refold into a cluster. This behavior was also observed when human CTCs were transplanted into the circulation of transparent zebrafish. Determining how cells of a CTC break and reform their connections may lead to approaches that prevent their transit through capillaries and reduce metastasis.

Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A., 10.1073/pnas1524448113 (2016).

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