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Research Zernike (ZIAM) Research Cancer as a materials science problem

Cancer as a materials science problem

Cancer is initiated by genetic modifications, but develops by altering its own physical context. It is through a process known as mechanotransduction that cells sense their environment and adapt to it by modifying their own cellular as well as the extracellular structure. There is increasing appreciation that mechanical forces play a key role in many of the hallmarks of cancer [1]. However, the cellular and extracellular changes by which tumour cells adapt to mechanical forces are often overlooked and therefore incompletely understood, as is the potential involvement of specific oncogenes. A team of researchers from ZIAM and UMCG are committed to making a quantitative connection between physical forces and genetic defects. The aim of the current program is to study the stiffness of cells and tissues for two partially opposing types of cancer by means of careful experiments and multiscale computational modelling. Subsequently, we aim to identify key malfunctioning proteins inside cells, on the cell membrane as well as in the extracellular matrix, by a combination of computational modelling, structure analysis and mutation studies. Interference with these proteins could become a future target to prevent the release of cancer cells from a tumour, invasion and further development of the tumour.

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[1] Austin R., Cancer biology still needs physicists. Nature 550: 4312 (2017).

Last modified:24 October 2019 09.31 a.m.