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Novel Study Maps Difference Between Metastatic, Normal Cells

Nationwide network of oncologists, physical scientists share skills to study cancer

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May 1, 2013 | by Megan Fellman

EVANSTON, Ill. --- Two Northwestern University graduate students are among the authors of a novel study -- involving experiments conducted in 20 different laboratories across the country -- to map the physical differences between cancer and normal cells.

Teams of physical scientists and oncologists from 12 Physical Sciences-Oncology Centers (PS-OC) found that metastatic cells are more physically flexible and stress-tolerant than non-tumorigenic cells. The PS-OC investigators were able to model potential linkages between the molecular and physical characteristics of the cell lines using molecular network analysis. 

A better understanding of the physical mechanisms underlying cancer could lead to improved diagnostics and therapeutics as well as open up new directions for research.

The findings were published April 26 by the journal Scientific Reports in a paper titled “A physical sciences network characterization of non-tumorigenic and metastatic cells” by the Physical Sciences-Oncology Centers Network.

This paper tells the story of how the collaborative efforts of this multidisciplinary network of 12 research centers across the U.S. are beginning to lead to a better understanding of the role physical processes, such as mechanics and dynamics, play in cancer initiation and metastasis.

Read more about Northwestern’s role in the study here.

The Northwestern Physical Sciences-Oncology Center, funded by the National Cancer Institute, is the only PS-OC in the Midwest. It is a collaboration of the Chemistry of Life Processes Institute and the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University.