The grant is part of a $592,000 collaborative research project between SDSU and UCSD which aims on understanding the interactions between aggressive cancer cells and the surrounding tissue matrix using mathematical modeling and experimental research. Normal cells in lab experiments show a preference for migrating towards stiffer tissue environments, a process called durotaxis. However, during cancer metastasis, cancerous cells break off from the parent tumor, migrate away from stiff tissue environments and into softer surrounding tissues. The project will try and explain this paradox by analyzing the migration and durotactic behavior of cancer cells based on the differences in their mechanical properties and their ability to sense stiffness changes in the tissue environment. In addition, the grant aims to train undergraduate and graduate students at both schools in complementary computational and experimental cell mechanics techniques.
Pictured above: A schematic of force generation, sensing and migration machinery inside cells