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  1. Pathological breast calcification signatures reflect the tumor microenvironment and correlate with cancer severity. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available February 24, 2024
  2. Contact guidance is a powerful topographical cue that induces persistent directional cell migration. Healthy tissue stroma is characterized by a meshwork of wavy extracellular matrix (ECM) fiber bundles, whereas metastasis-prone stroma exhibit less wavy, more linear fibers. The latter topography correlates with poor prognosis, whereas more wavy bundles correlate with benign tumors. We designed nanotopographic ECM-coated substrates that mimic collagen fibril waveforms seen in tumors and healthy tissues to determine how these nanotopographies may regulate cancer cell polarization and migration machineries. Cell polarization and directional migration were inhibited by fibril-like wave substrates above a threshold amplitude. Although polarity signals and actin nucleation factors were required for polarization and migration on low-amplitude wave substrates, they did not localize to cell leading edges. Instead, these factors localized to wave peaks, creating multiple “cryptic leading edges” within cells. On high-amplitude wave substrates, retrograde flow from large cryptic leading edges depolarized stress fibers and focal adhesions and inhibited cell migration. On low-amplitude wave substrates, actomyosin contractility overrode the small cryptic leading edges and drove stress fiber and focal adhesion orientation along the wave axis to mediate directional migration. Cancer cells of different intrinsic contractility depolarized at different wave amplitudes, and cell polarization response to wavy substrates could be tuned by manipulating contractility. We propose that ECM fibril waveforms with sufficiently high amplitude around tumors may serve as “cell polarization barriers,” decreasing directional migration of tumor cells, which could be overcome by up-regulation of tumor cell contractility.

     
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  3. Abstract

    Metastasis is the leading cause of breast cancer‐related deaths and is often driven by invasion and cancer‐stem like cells (CSCs). Both the CSC phenotype and invasion are associated with increased hyaluronic acid (HA) production. How these independent observations are connected, and which role metabolism plays in this process, remains unclear due to the lack of convergent approaches integrating engineered model systems, computational tools, and cancer biology. Using microfluidic invasion models, metabolomics, computational flux balance analysis, and bioinformatic analysis of patient data, the functional links between the stem‐like, invasive, and metabolic phenotype of breast cancer cells as a function of HA biosynthesis are investigated. These results suggest that CSCs are more invasive than non‐CSCs and that broad metabolic changes caused by overproduction of HA play a role in this process. Accordingly, overexpression of hyaluronic acid synthases (HAS) 2 or 3 induces a metabolic phenotype that promotes cancer cell stemness and invasion in vitro and upregulates a transcriptomic signature predictive of increased invasion and worse patient survival. This study suggests that HA overproduction leads to metabolic adaptations to satisfy the energy demands for 3D invasion of breast CSCs highlighting the importance of engineered model systems and multidisciplinary approaches in cancer research.

     
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  4. Abstract

    Obesity increases the risk and worsens the prognosis for breast cancer due, in part, to altered adipose stromal cell (ASC) behavior. Whether ASCs from obese individuals increase migration of breast cancer cells relative to their lean counterparts, however, remains unclear. To test this connection, multicellular spheroids composed of MCF10A‐derived tumor cell lines of varying malignant potential and lean or obese ASCs are embedded into collagen scaffolds mimicking the elastic moduli of interstitial breast adipose tissue. Confocal image analysis suggests that tumor cells alone migrate insignificantly under these conditions. However, direct cell‐cell contact with either lean or obese ASCs enables them to migrate collectively, whereby obese ASCs activate tumor cell migration more effectively than their lean counterparts. Time‐resolved optical coherence tomography imaging suggests that obese ASCs facilitate tumor cell migration by mediating contraction of local collagen fibers. Matrix metalloproteinase (MMP)‐dependent proteolytic activity significantly contributes to ASC‐mediated tumor cell invasion and collagen deformation. However, ASC contractility is also important, as co‐inhibition of both MMPs and contractility is necessary to completely abrogate ASC‐mediated tumor cell migration. These findings imply that obesity‐mediated changes of ASC phenotype may impact tumor cell migration and invasion with potential implications for breast cancer malignancy in obese patients.

     
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