Fancy: Flow and Deformation of Cancer tumours near Yielding

Themes: Life Science & Health, Chemistry, Bio- & Process technology

A TRL is a measure to indicate the matureness of a developing technology. When an innovative idea is discovered it is often not directly suitable for application. Usually such novel idea is subjected to further experimentation, testing and prototyping before it can be implemented. The image below shows how to read TRL’s to categorise the innovative ideas.

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Summary of the project

Through biology research we already know a lot about the molecular characterization of cancer cells. Often it is the secondary tumor that has spread to elsewhere in the body (metastasis) that is fatal to the patient. However, few people have looked at these tumors as a soft material. There is a knowledge gap in the mechanical characterization of cancer tumors which chemical engineer Pouyan Boukany and his interdisciplinary team try to unravel. They aim to increase our understanding of the physical properties of cancer cells and the mechanical pathways and mechanisms that cause a tumor cell to move through the human body aiding treatment of cancer in the future.

Current platforms for studying cancer cells are growth flasks or petri-dishes in which a single layer of cells can be grown. However, in a tissue cells are often packed together which more or less locks them into place. Through forces such as pushing or deforming cells the tissue can become more fluid, releasing cells. To understand the relation of force to the release of cells – allowing them to move - the team is developing a new platform to grow cells in a 3D setting just as they would grow inside a body. 

What's next?

With more understanding of how tumours can move within the body the next step is to finding ways to stop cells from migrating through the body. Besides, with the understanding how cells move through the body the researcher can also model where the released tumor cells want to; so which type of cancer cell invades which organs.