Cancer Biology


Protocols in Current Issue
Protocols in Past Issues
0 Q&A 2984 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 1615 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.

1 Q&A 4933 Views Jan 5, 2020
The ability of cancer cells to migrate through a complex three-dimensional (3D) environment is a hallmark event of cancer metastasis. Therefore, an in vitro migration assay to evaluate cancer cell migration in a 3D setting is valuable to examine cancer progression. Here, we describe such a simple migration assay in a 3D collagen-fibronectin gel for observing cell morphology and comparing the migration abilities of cancer cells. We describe below how to prepare the collagen-fibronectin gel castings, how to set up time-lapse recording, how to draw single-cell trajectories from movies and extract key parameters that characterize cell motility, such as cell speed, directionality, mean square displacement, and directional persistence. In our set-up, cells are sandwiched in a single plane between two collagen-fibronectin gels. This trick facilitates the analysis of cell tracks, which are for the most part 2D, at least in the beginning, but in a 3D environment. This protocol has been previously published in Visweshwaran et al. (2018) and is described here in more detail.
0 Q&A 12488 Views Jan 5, 2015
The assay was developed to investigate the impact of stromal cells of different types (in our case breast cancer associated fibroblasts stably manipulated to modify expression of genes of interest) on the invasive capacity of epithelial cancer cells (in our case breast cancer cell lines) (Verghese et al., 2013). Typical two dimensional invasion assays do necessarily account for the presence of extracellular matrix that is present around the stromal and tumour cells in vivo and therefore cellular behaviour within these cultures may be non-physiological. This spheroid assay was developed to attempt to replicate more closely the environment that is present around breast cancer stromal and tumour cells in actual tumours (Verghese et al., 2013). Extra cellular matrix composed of both collagen IV and collagen I is included and fibroblasts and epithelial cells are given the opportunity to develop “physiological” interactions (Verghese et al., 2013; Hooper et al., 2006). The method was developed from Nowicki et al. (2008), and we have published data using it in Verghese et al. (2013).
0 Q&A 21850 Views Dec 20, 2013
This protocol is designed to quantify invadopodia formation and activity. Invadopodia are protrusive structures elaborated by cancer cells that mediate cell attachment and remodeling of the extracellular matrix. These structures contribute to the ability of cancer cells to invade and metastasize. In this protocol, both the presence of invadopodia and their activity is simultaneously assessed and quantified by a fluorescent microscopy-based assay.
0 Q&A 11845 Views Sep 5, 2013
The invasive ability of cancer cells is a crucial function for cancer metastasis and the surrounding microenvironment of cancer cells in living tissues is three-dimension (3D). Therefore, to establish an in vitro invasion assay in a 3D system to predict cancer invasive ability is valuable in the research for cancer metastasis. Here, we describe a 3D invasion assay for observing the morphology and comparing the invasive ability of cancer cells in artificial 3D environments (Yang et al., 2012). Collagen I gels are used to cover on the top of cancer cells attached on coverslip glass dish and medium containing FBS is added as a chemoattractant. After incubation for a suitable time, the cells are fixed and stained. The invasion index can be calculated and the morphology can be imaged with a laser confocal microscope.

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