GUWAHATI: Researchers at Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore and Indian Institute of Technology, Guwahati have teamed up for an experiment to study how breast cancer cells spread through blood to other parts of the body.
According to IIT Guwahati, the multi-disciplinary and multi-institutional team seeks to bridge this gap in understanding and work towards unraveling mechanisms involved in the growth and spread of breast cancer.
The researchers – Prof. Siddhartha Ghosh from IIT Guwahati, Prof. Gautam Biswas from IIT Guwahati, Dr. Mohit Kumar Jolly from IISc Bangalore and Dr. Amaresh Dalal from IIT Guwahati together with research fellow Dr. Binita Nath and research scholars, Anil Bidkar and Vikash Kumar – developed a PDMS-based complex flow passage with an overall diameter of 184 micrometres, with built-in blockages at certain locations that reduce the effective flow passages with a diameter of seven micrometres.
Their work recently appeared in the Journal of Clinical Medicine, published from Switzerland.
Prof. Ghosh said while breast cancer starts as a local disease, it can grow and spread to other organs in a process called “metastasis”, which is the most devastating attribute of the disease.
“We don’t yet fully know the molecular and cellular mechanisms of breast cancer metastasis, and this hinders the development of treatment protocols that can prevent or treat cancer spread,” he said, adding, “Our bodies are made up of billions of cells of various types and various types of cancers start from different types of cells”.
Breast cancer starts in epithelial cells which are found in the skin and as lining for all organs inside the body as well as body parts such as breast and the insides of the chest cavity.
Talking about their experiment, Prof. Biswas said, “While the epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT) is known as an important factor in the spread of cancer, how the converted cells travel through the blood vessels and undergo reverse transition (mesenchymal to epithelial) at the secondary sites has hitherto not been completely understood. Our effort was to understand how the cells lose their EMT phenotype and revert t0 epithelial format through a process called MET”.
The team found that the EMT cells had enhanced migratory properties and retained 50% viability even after migration through wells and constricted passages. It further found that the cells collected at the channel outlet regained epithelial character.