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A Biophysical Model Uncovers the Size Distribution of Migrating Cell Clusters across Cancer Types

Bocci, Federico and Jolly, Mohit Kumar and Onuchic, Jose Nelson (2019) A Biophysical Model Uncovers the Size Distribution of Migrating Cell Clusters across Cancer Types. In: CANCER RESEARCH, 79 (21). pp. 5527-5535.

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Official URL: http:/dx.doi.org/10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-19-1726


Migration from the primary tumor is a crucial step in the metastatic cascade. Cells with various degrees of adhesion and motility migrate and are launched into the bloodstream as single circulating tumor cells (CTC) or multicellular CTC clusters. The frequency and size distributions of these clusters have been recently measured, but the underlying mechanisms enabling these different modes of migration remain poorly understood. We present a biophysical model that couples the phenotypic plasticity enabled by the epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) and cell migration to explain the modes of individual and collective cancer cell migration. This reduced physical model captures how cells undergo a transition from individual migration to collective cell migration and robustly recapitulates CTC cluster fractions and size distributions observed experimentally across several cancer types, thus suggesting the existence of common features in the mechanisms underlying cancer cell migration. Furthermore, we identify mechanisms that can maximize the fraction of CTC clusters in circulation. First, mechanisms that prevent a complete EMT and instead increase the population of hybrid epithelial/mesenchymal (E/M) cells are required to recapitulate CTC size distributions with large clusters of 5 to 10 cells. Second, multiple intermediate E/M states give rise to larger and heterogeneous clusters formed by cells with different epithelial-mesenchymal traits. Overall, this biophysical model provides a platform to continue to bridge the gap between the molecular and biophysical regulation of cancer cell migration and highlights that a complete EMT might not be required for metastasis. Significance: A biophysical model of cancer cell invasion integrates phenotypic heterogeneity and cell migration to interpret experimental observations of circulating tumor cell clusters and provides new predictions.

Item Type: Journal Article
Additional Information: copy right of this article belong to AMER ASSOC CANCER RESEARCH
Department/Centre: Division of Interdisciplinary Sciences > Centre for Biosystems Science and Engineering
Date Deposited: 06 Dec 2019 09:40
Last Modified: 06 Dec 2019 09:40
URI: http://eprints.iisc.ac.in/id/eprint/63935

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