New Insights into Mechanisms of Tumor Growth Focus on ECM Stiffening and Increased Exosome Production/Release

Artist’s Rendering of Exosome

In many instances, the physical manifestation of cancers and the ways they are subsequently diagnosed is via a tumor, tissue masses of mutated cells and structures that grow excessively. One of the major mysteries in understanding what goes awry in cancers relates to the environments within which these structures grow, commonly known as the tumor microenvironment. These microenvironments play a role in facilitating tumor survival, growth, and spread. Tumors can help generate their own infrastructure in the form of vasculature, immune cells, signaling molecules, and extracellular matrices (ECMs), three-dimensional networks of collagen-rich support scaffolding for a cell. ECMs also help regulate cellular communications, and in the tumor microenvironment ECMs can be a key promoter of tumor growth by providing structural support for cancerous cells and in modulating signaling pathways that promote growth. Now, new research led by Wei Gao, PhD, at the University of Pennsylvania’s (Penn’s) School of Arts & Science and published on February 16, 2023 in Nature Cell Biology, has bridged the complex structural interactions within the tumor microenvironment to the signals that trigger tumor growth. The researchers studied cancerous liver cells grown on ECMs of varying stiffness and discovered that the stiffening associated with tumor growth can initiate a cascade that increases the production of small lipid-encapsulated vesicles known as exosomes. The article is titled “Stiff Matrix Induces Exosome Secretion to Promote Tumour Growth.”

Login Or Register To Read Full Story