Mind the Gap: Studying the Tumor Extracellular Matrix

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This image shows invading tumor cells embedded in surrounding connective tissue.

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Steffen Rickelt, Richard Hynes
Koch Institute at MIT

Although the brightly colored cells in the center of this image catch your eye first, it's the seemingly neutral tissue around them that the Hynes Lab is studying. Does this extracellular matrix serve as a barrier or a doorway to metastasis?

When cancer cells spread to distant organs, they must navigate a complex network of cells and proteins to get there. This image shows colon cancer metastases (brown clusters) surrounded by liver (light brown) and immune cells (pink). Researchers seek to discover how the surrounding matrix (white/blue) facilitates or limits the interactions between them.

Watch

Steffen Rickelt shares the story behind his award-winning image. You can also watch the presentation from the exhibition opening event on March 23, 2017 here.