Probing the invasiveness of prostate cancer cells in a 3D microfabricated landscape

Liyu Liu, Bo Sun, Jonas Nyvold Pedersen, Koh-Meng Aw Yong, Robert H. Getzenberg, Howard A. Stone, Robert H. Austin

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


The metastatic invasion of cancer cells from primary tumors to distant ecological niches, rather than the primary tumors, is the cause of much cancer mortality [Zhang QB, et al. (2010) Int J Cancer 126:2534–2541; Chambers AF, Goss PE (2008) Breast Cancer Res 10:114]. Metastasis is a three-dimensional invasion process where cells spread from their site of origin and colonize distant microenvironmental niches. It is critical to be able to assess quantitatively the metastatic potential of cancer cells [Harma V, et al. (2010) PLoS ONE 5:e10431]. We have constructed a microfabricated chip with a three-dimensional topology consisting of lowlands and isolated square highlands (Tepuis), which stand hundreds of microns above the lowlands, in order to assess cancer cell metastatic potential as they invade the highlands. As a test case, the invasive ascents of the Tepui by highly metastatic PC-3 and noninvasive LNCaP prostate cancer cells were used. The vertical ascent by prostate cancer cells from the lowlands to the tops of the Tepui was imaged using confocal microscopy and used as a measure of the relative invasiveness. The less-metastatic cells (LNCaP) never populated all available tops, leaving about 15% of them unoccupied, whereas the more metastatic PC-3 cells occupied all available Tepuis. We argue that this distinct difference in invasiveness is due to contact inhibition.
Original languageEnglish
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Publication statusPublished - 2011
Externally publishedYes

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