Ionizing radiation found to soften tumor cell microenvironment

IMAGE: (A) Collagen matrices are prepared inside transwell containers, where one set is treated with clinical doses of radiation. (B) Cancer cell are then seeded on the collagen and allowed to… view more 

Credit: Joseph P. Miller

WASHINGTON, D.C., April 3, 2018 — Nearly half of all cancer patients receive radiation therapy to curb the growth of malignant cells. But little is known about how ionizing radiation affects the extracellular matrix (ECM), a patchwork of proteins and other biomolecules that surrounds cells and plays a vital role in their shape, movement and signaling functions. One team of researchers from Vanderbilt University aims to unlock how irradiation might alter the mechanical properties of the microenvironment.

The team demonstrated that ionizing radiation can reduce the stiffness of both the ECM of an extracted tumor and an isolated matrix of collagen fibers. Appearing this week in APL Bioengineering‘s special issue on the “Bioengineering of Cancer,” from AIP Publishing, their results pave the way for irradiation to be used to create matrices with tailored properties, and suggest that radiation therapy might have effects beyond disrupting cellular DNA.

“We wanted to know how radiation effects the tissues surrounding cells, particularly how this changes the


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