The structural and mechanical properties of the microenvironmental context have a profound impact on cancer cell motility, tumor invasion, and metastasis formation. In fact, cells react to their mechanical environment modulating their adhesion, cytoskeleton organization, changes of shape, and, consequently, the dynamics of their motility. In order to elucidate the role of extracellular matrix stiffness as a driving force in cancer cell motility/invasion and the effects of ionizing radiations on these processes, we evaluated adhesion and migration as biophysical properties of two different mammary cell lines, over a range of pathophysiological stiffness (1–13 kPa) in a control condition and after the exposure to two different X-ray doses (2 and 10 Gy, photon beams). We concluded that the microenvironment mimicking the normal mechanics of healthy tissue has a radioprotective role on both cell lines, preventing cell motility and invasion. Supraphysiological extracellular matrix stiffness promoted tumor cell motility instead, but also had a normalizing effect on the response to radiation of tumor cells, lowering their migratory capability. This work lays the foundation for exploiting the extracellular matrix-mediated mechanism underlying the response of healthy and tumor cells to radiation treatments and opens new frontiers in the diagnostic and therapeutic use of radiotherapy.
- Breast cancer
- Cell motility
- Extracellular matrix stiffness
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cancer Research