Metastatic Breast Cancer Invades a Lung

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This image, captured by Michele Balsamo of the Gertler Lab at the Koch Institute, shows metastatic breast tumors invading a lung.

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Michele Balsamo
Gertler Lab, Koch Institute
Deconvolution Micrograph

Nine out of ten cancer deaths are caused by metastasis, the spread of cancer to distant tissues. This image catches cancer in the midst of this deadly activity. The lung tissue shown here contains three small tumors (green and blue blobs).  These tumors are not natives of the lungs; they are outsiders, descendants of breast tissue that became cancerous and traveled through the bloodstream to this site. As the three tumors grow, they squeeze a bronchiole, a tiny airway in the lungs (yellow and blue tube), forcing it shut.

Michele Balsamo studies the genetic changes that allow both healthy and cancerous cells to move and migrate. Here, he observes that the Mena protein, a key part of cell movement, is expressed in different forms (yellow, red) in the different cells of this tumor site.

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Michele Balsamo explains how and why he captured this image of metastatic cancer.