Microfluidic platform sheds light on metastasis

Written by Jessica Thorne, Future Science Group

Researchers have developed a microfluidic model to study breast cancer metastasis to bone. 

A global group of scientists have developed a microfluidic 3D in vitro model to analyze breast cancer metastasis to bone, which occurs in nearly 70% of patients with advanced breast cancer.

The microfluidic platform mimics the bone microenvironment, which the team used to study the extravasation of highly metastatic breast cancer cells. Using this platform, the study aimed to determine why certain breast cancers spread specifically to bone and not to other organs. Roger Kamm, a researcher on the study from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MA, USA) commented, “An example is that breast cancer will form metastatic tumors in bone, but not, for example, muscle. Why is this, and what factors determine it? We can use our model system both to understand this selectivity, and also to screen for drugs that might prevent it.”

The study identified two important proteins, the bone-secreted chemokine CXCL5 and the cancer cell receptor CXCR2, which were demonstrated to play a key role in metastasis and therefore, could be potential targets for drug development.

Looking to the future, the team is planning to study cancer metastasis in other organs. They hope that the platform could be used in personalized medicine to develop optimal cancer therapies for individual patients, as explained by Kamm, “One might envision using cells from the cancer patient to produce models of different organs, then using these models to determine the optimal therapy from a variety of available drugs.”

Sources:A microchip for metastasis; Bersini S, Jeon JS, Dubini G et al. A microfluidic 3D in vitro model for specificity of breast cancer metastasis to bone. Biomaterials 35(8), 2454–2461 (2014).