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BME Frontiers


We need novel strategies to target the complexity of cancer and, particularly, of metastatic disease. As an example of this complexity, certain tissues are particularly hospitable environments for metastases, whereas others do not contain fertile microenvironments to support cancer cell growth. Continuing evidence that the extracellular matrix (ECM) of tissues is one of a host of factors necessary to support cancer cell growth at both primary and secondary tissue sites is emerging. Research on cancer metastasis has largely been focused on the molecular adaptations of tumor cells in various cytokine and growth factor environments on 2-dimensional tissue culture polystyrene plates. Intravital imaging, conversely, has transformed our ability to watch, in real time, tumor cell invasion, intravasation, extravasation, and growth. Because the interstitial ECM that supports all cells in the tumor microenvironment changes over time scales outside the possible window of typical intravital imaging, bioengineers are continuously developing both simple and sophisticated in vitro controlled environments to study tumor (and other) cell interactions with this matrix. In this perspective, we focus on the cellular unit responsible for upholding the pathologic homeostasis of tumor-bearing organs, cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAFs), and their self-generated ECM. The latter, together with tumoral and other cell secreted factors, constitute the “tumor matrisome”. We share the challenges and opportunities for modeling this dynamic CAF/ECM unit, the tools and techniques available, and how the tumor matrisome is remodeled (e.g., via ECM proteases). We posit that increasing information on tumor matrisome dynamics may lead the field to alternative strategies for personalized medicine outside genomics.





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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.