A hallmark of cancer cells is their ‘anchorage-independence’, i.e., they are able to grow under conditions that do not support strong attachment of the cells. This trait has been identified more than six decades ago, but is still poorly understood from a mechano-biological point of view. Our lab studies the ways by which cancer cells lose their normal mechanosensing abilities to become non-dependent on the signals from their environment.
Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) is an extremely deadly disease that is projected to become the second-most deadly cancer in the next decade. PDAC is characterized by an extremely dense and stiff extracellular matrix that surrounds the tumor cells, which is considered to play a major role in PDAC progression and metastasis. Our lab studies the interactions between PDAC cells and their environment with the goal of identifying potential mechanobiological therapeutic targets.
Cells in our bodies respond not only to biochemical signals (hormones, growth factors), but also to the mechanical features of their environment, including, e.g., topography, rigidity. This indicates that cells can actively test the environment. Our lab studies the fundamental mechanisms by which this sensing is achieved. We combine the use of nano- and micro-fabricated surfaces with advanced imaging and machine learning for image analysis to study the subcellular machineries involved in this process.