Cancer Biology


Protocols in Current Issue
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0 Q&A 804 Views Dec 20, 2022

The extracellular matrix (ECM) is a non-cellular network of macromolecules, which provides cells and tissues with structural support and biomechanical feedback to regulate cellular function, tissue tension, and homeostasis. Even subtle changes to ECM abundance, architecture, and organization can affect downstream biological pathways, thereby influencing normal cell and tissue function and also driving disease conditions. For example, in cancer, the ECM is well known to provide both biophysical and biochemical cues that influence cancer initiation, progression, and metastasis, highlighting the need to better understand cell–ECM interactions in cancer and other ECM-enriched diseases. Initial cell-derived matrix (CDM) models were used as an in vitro system to mimic and assess the physiologically relevant three-dimensional (3D) cell–ECM interactions. Here, we describe an expansion to these initial CDM models generated by fibroblasts to assess the effect of genetic or pharmacological intervention on fibroblast-mediated matrix production and organization. Additionally, we highlight current methodologies to quantify changes in the ultrastructure and isotropy of the resulting ECM and also provide protocols for assessing cancer cell interaction with CDMs. Understanding the nature and influence of these complex and heterogeneous processes can offer insights into the biomechanical and biochemical mechanisms, which drive cancer development and metastasis, and how we can target them to improve cancer outcomes.

0 Q&A 645 Views Nov 5, 2022

Mature B-cell lymphomas are highly dependent upon the protective lymphoid organ microenvironment for their growth and survival. Targeting integrin-mediated homing and retention of the malignant B cells in the lymphoid organs, using the Bruton’s tyrosine kinase (BTK) inhibitor ibrutinib, is a highly efficacious FDA-approved therapy for chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), mantle cell lymphoma (MCL), and Waldenström macroglobulinemia (WM). Unfortunately, a significant subset of patients is intrinsically resistant to ibrutinib or will develop resistance upon prolonged treatment. Here, we describe an unbiased functional genomic CRISPR-Cas9 screening method to identify novel proteins involved in B-cell receptor–controlled integrin-mediated adhesion, which provides novel therapeutic targets to overcome ibrutinib resistance. This screening method is highly flexible and can be easily adapted to identify cell adhesion–regulatory proteins and signaling pathways for other stimuli, adhesion molecules, and cell types.

Graphical abstract:

0 Q&A 703 Views Oct 5, 2022

Few models exist that allow for rapid and effective screening of anti-metastasis drugs. Here, we present a drug screening protocol utilizing gastrulation of zebrafish embryos for identification of anti-metastasis drugs. Based on the evidence that metastasis proceeds through utilizing the molecular mechanisms of gastrulation, we hypothesized that chemicals interrupting zebrafish gastrulation might suppress the metastasis of cancer cells. Thus, we developed a phenotype-based chemical screen that uses epiboly, the first morphogenetic movement in gastrulation, as a marker. The screen only needs zebrafish embryos and enables hundreds of chemicals to be tested in five hours by observing the epiboly progression of chemical-treated embryos. In the screen, embryos at the two-cell stage are firstly corrected and then developed to the sphere stage. The embryos are treated with a test chemical and incubated in the presence of the chemical until vehicle-treated embryos develop to the 90% epiboly stage. Finally, positive ‘hit’ chemicals that interrupt epiboly progression are selected by comparing epiboly progression of the chemical-treated and vehicle-treated embryos under a stereoscopic microscope. A previous study subjected 1,280 FDA-approved drugs to the screen and identified adrenosterone and pizotifen as epiboly-interrupting drugs. These were validated to suppress metastasis of breast cancer cells in mice models of metastasis. Furthermore, 11β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase 1 (HSD11β1) and serotonin receptor 2C (HTR2C), the primary targets of adrenosterone and pizotifen, respectively, promoted metastasis through induction of epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT). Therefore, this screen could be converted into a chemical genetic screening platform for identification of metastasis-promoting genes.

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0 Q&A 1404 Views Apr 5, 2022

Macropinocytosis is an evolutionarily conserved process, which is characterized by the formation of membrane ruffles and the uptake of extracellular fluid. We recently demonstrated a role for CYFIP-related Rac1 Interactor (CYRI) proteins in macropinocytosis. High-molecular weight dextran (70kDa or higher) has generally been used as a marker for macropinocytosis because it is too large to fit in smaller endocytic vesicles, such as those of clathrin or caveolin-mediated endocytosis. Through the use of an image-based dextran uptake assay, we showed that cells lacking CYRI proteins internalise less dextran compared to their wild-type counterparts. Here, we will describe a step-by-step experimentation procedure to detect internalised dextran in cultured cells, and an image pipeline to analyse the acquired images, using the open-access software ImageJ/Fiji. This protocol is detailed yet simple and easily adaptable to different treatment conditions, and the analysis can also be automated for improved processing speed.

0 Q&A 2752 Views Feb 20, 2022
The invasion of tumor cells into the neighboring blood vessels and lymph nodes is a vital step for distant metastasis. Traditionally, the invasive activity of growth factors (or the anti-invasive activity of drugs) is measured with the Boyden chamber assay. However, this assay has a few disadvantages like poor physiological relevance of transwell inserts and an inability to control chemokine gradients. The Boyden chamber assay is one of the most prevalent methods to measure the invasion of cancer cells. It would be advantageous to develop another assay that could validate the results of the Boyden chamber assay. With this in mind, our laboratory developed the spherical invasion assay (SIA) to measure the pro-invasive activity of human cancer cells. The SIA also circumvents some of the drawbacks of the Boyden chamber assay. The present manuscript measures the anti-invasive activity of the Src kinase inhibitor PP2 in A549 human non-small cell lung carcinoma (NSCLC) cells using the SIA. The SIA protocol is comprised of two steps. In the first step, A549 human NSCLC cells (treated or not with PP2) were mixed with Matrigel and seeded in the middle of an eight-well chamber slide. After 24 h, a second layer of Matrigel was overlaid over the first layer. Over the course of the next 24 h, the A549 cells invade from the primary to the secondary Matrigel layers. Subsequently, the cells are visualized by phase-contrast microscopy and the images obtained are quantified using ImageJ to calculate the anti-invasive activity of PP2 in A549 cells. The results of the SIA correlate well with Boyden chamber assays. The SIA may be adapted for multiple experimental designs, such as drug screening (to combat invasion and metastasis), measuring the pro-invasive activity of growth factors, and elucidating the signaling pathways underlying the pro-invasive/anti-invasive activity of biological modifiers.

Graphic abstract:

Diagrammatic illustration of the spherical invasion assay (Hurley et al., 2017).
A. The first layer is comprised of human cancer cells mixed in a 1:1 suspension with Phenol Red containing Matrigel (represented as LAYER 1 in the figure). After 24 h, the cancer cells grow and extend up to the boundary of this first layer. B. A second layer of 1:1 solution Phenol Red-free Matrigel, in Phenol Red-free RPMI (represented as LAYER 2 in the figure) is added on top of the first Matrigel spot. The cells are incubated for 24 h at 37°C. C. Over these 24 h, the cancer cells invade from the primary layer into the secondary Matrigel layer. The chamber slides are observed by phase-contrast microscopy. D. A representative photograph of the images obtained by the SIA is shown. The black arrow indicates the cancer cells invading into the second layer of Matrigel. The dotted line represents the interface between the two layers. The distance to which the cells have traveled (into the secondary Matrigel layer) is measured at ten sites (for each photograph) in a randomized double-blind fashion by three independent observers, using NIH ImageJ Version 1.47. This process is repeated for three separate photographic fields per sample.

0 Q&A 1529 Views Feb 5, 2022

Cell migration is a vital process in the development of multicellular organisms. When deregulated, it is involved in many diseases such as inflammation and cancer metastisation. Some cancer cells could be stimulated using chemoattractant molecules, such as growth factor Heregulin β1. They respond to the attractant or repellent gradients through a process known as chemotaxis. Indeed, chemotactic cell motility is crucial in tumour cell dissemination and invasion of distant organs. Due to the complexity of this phenomenon, the majority of available in vitro methods to study the chemotactic motility process have limitations and are mainly based on endpoint assays, such as the Boyden chamber assay. Nevertheless, in vitro time-lapse microscopy represents an interesting opportunity to study cell motility in a chemoattracting gradient, since it generates large volume image-based information, allowing the analysis of cancer cell behaviours. Here, we describe a detailed time-lapse imaging protocol, designed for tracking T47D human breast cancer cell line motility, toward a gradient of Heregulin β1 in a Dunn chemotaxis chamber assay. The protocol described here is readily adapted to study the motility of any adherent cell line, under various conditions of chemoattractant gradients and of pharmacological drug treatments. Moreover, this protocol could be suitable to study changes in cell morphology, and in cell polarity.

0 Q&A 3161 Views Jan 20, 2022

Organoids are complex three-dimensional structures, which contain different cell types and help to overcome many limitations of conventional 2D cell culture techniques. Here, we present a protocol for the cultivation of murine matched-pairs of small intestinal and colonic epithelial organoids, and colonic tumor organoids derived from the chemical colorectal cancer (CRC) AOM/DSS mouse model. Therefore, intestinal crypts or tumor tissue containing stem cells are isolated from the same donor mouse and cultivated in Matrigel®. The culture medium is supplemented with different growth factors to model the intestinal stem cell niche, allowing their self-renewal and differentiation. Matched-pair organoids enable the analysis of pharmacological effects and the tumor selectivity of drugs.

Graphic abstract:

Schematic overview of colonic matched pair organoid preparation, generated from the chemical AOM/DSS colorectal cancer mouse model.

Please note that normal colon-derived organoids (green) differ in their morphology from tumor-derived organoids (red). Normal colonic-derived organoids display a thicker and crypt-like epithelial layer, whereas tumor-derived organoids are round with a thin epithelial layer.

0 Q&A 2388 Views Nov 20, 2021

Bone metastasis is a frequent and lethal complication of many cancer types (i.e., prostate cancer, breast cancer, and multiple myeloma), and a cure for bone metastasis remains elusive. To recapitulate the process of bone metastasis and understand how cancer cells metastasize to bone, intracardiac injection and intracaudal arterial animal models were developed. The intratibial injection animal model was established to investigate the communication between cancer cells and the bone microenvironment and to mimic the setting of prostate cancer patients with bone metastasis. Given that detailed protocols of intratibial injection and its quantitative analysis are still insufficient, in this protocol, we provide hands-on procedures for how to prepare cells, perform the tibial injection, monitor tibial tumor growth, and quantitatively evaluate the tibial tumors in pathological samples. This manuscript provides a ready-to-use experimental protocol for investigating cancer cell behaviors in bone and developing novel therapeutic strategies for bone metastatic cancer patients.

0 Q&A 4157 Views Jan 20, 2021

Research on cell migration and interactions with the extracellular matrix (ECM) was mostly focused on 2D surfaces in the past. Many recent studies have highlighted differences in migratory behaviour of cells on 2D surfaces compared to complex cell migration modes in 3D environments. When embedded in 3D matrices, cells constantly sense the physicochemical, topological and mechanical properties of the ECM and adjust their behaviour accordingly. Changes in the stiffness of the ECM can have effects on cell morphology, differentiation and behaviour and cells can follow stiffness gradients in a process called durotaxis. Here we introduce a detailed protocol for the assembly of 3D matrices consisting of collagen I/fibronectin and embedding cells for live cell imaging. Further, we will show how the matrix can be stiffened via non-enzymatic glycation and how collagen staining with fluorescent dyes allows simultaneous imaging of both matrix and cells. This approach can be used to image cell migration in 3D microenvironments with varying stiffness, define cell-matrix interactions and the cellular response to changing ECM, and visualize matrix deformation by the cells.

0 Q&A 5304 Views Apr 20, 2020
Cell migration is a fundamental cellular process that plays a crucial role in many physioglogical and pathological processes such as wound healing or cancer metastasis. Many assays have been developed to examine cell migration, such as the wound healing or scratch assay, Boyden Chamber or transwell assay, and the method we will describe here, single cell migration assay. In this assay, cells are plated sparsely on a collagen coated plate and live cell imaging is performed over a period of 2 h at 1 frame per minute. After imaging is completed, cells are tracked manually using ImageJ by tracking movement of the centroid of the cell. These data points are then exported and overall distance travelled from frame to frame is determined and divided by total time imaged to determine speed of the cell. This method provides a quick way to examine effect of cellular manipulation on cell migration before proceeding to perform more complex assays.

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