7th Annual Symposium
Physics of Cancer
Leipzig, Germany
October 4-6, 2016
Contributed Talk
Why Do Rigid Tumors Contain Soft Cancer Cells?
Franziska Wetzel*1, Anatol Fritsch*1, Dapeng Bi*7, Roland Stange1, Tobias Kießling1, Steve Pawlizak1, Mareike Zink1, Lars-Christian Horn3, Klaus Bendrat4, Maja Oktay5, Axel Niendorf4, John Condeelis6, Michael Höckel2, M. Cristina Marchetti8, Lisa Manning8, Josef Käs1
1University of Leipzig, Faculty of Physics and Earth Sciences, EXP, Soft Matter Division, Linnéstr. 5, 04103 Leipzig, Germany
2Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Women`s and Children`s Center, Leipzig University, Leipzig, 04103 Leipzig, Germany
3Division of Breast, Urogenital and Perinatal Pathology, Institute of Pathology, Leipzig University, 04103 Leipzig, Germany
4Pathology Hamburg-West, 22767 Hamburg, Germany
5Montefiore Medical Center, Bronx, NY 10467, U.S.A.
6Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, NY 10461, U.S.A.
7Center for Studies in Physics and Biology, Rockefeller University, 1230 York Avenue, NY 10065, U.S.A.
8Departement of Physics, Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY 13244, U.S.A
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As early as 400 BCE, the Roman medical encyclopaedist Celsus recognized that solid tumours are stiffer than surrounding tissue. However, cancer cell lines are softer, which facilitates invasion. This paradox raises several questions: Does softness emerge from adaptation to mechanical and chemical cues in the external microenvironment, or are soft cells already present inside a primary tumour? If the latter, how can cancer tissue be more rigid than normal tissue and yet contain more soft cells? Here we show that in primary samples from patients with mammary and cervix carcinomas, cells do exhibit a broad distribution of rigidities, with a higher fraction of softer and more contractile cells compared to normal tissue. Mechanical modelling based on patient data reveals that tumours with a significant fraction of very soft cells can still remain solid. Moreover, in tissues with the observed distributions of cell stiffness, softer cells spontaneously self-organize into multicellular streams, possibly facilitating cancer metastasis.

* These authors contributed equally to this work.
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