UNC scientists create better laboratory tools to study cancer's spread

CHAPEL HILL – Cancer that has spread, or metastasized, from its original site to other tissues and organs in the body is a leading cause of cancer death. Unfortunately, research focused on metastatic disease has been limited by a lack of experimental systems that mimic the way metastatic cancers grow in people.

Now, researchers at the University of North Carolina Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center report they have developed a laboratory model for studying metastatic cancer by applying techniques used in tissue engineering, a field in which scientists make enhanced or replacement tissue or organs. Researchers believe their method better reflects the environment in and around tumors that have metastasized.

In the journal Nature Biomedical Engineering, UNC Lineberger’s Andrew Wang, MD, and colleagues report they have developed tissue-engineered models for cancer metastases that reflect the microenvironment around tumors that promotes their growth. They believe their models, which were developed to study colorectal cancer that had spread to the liver and lung, will help scientists studying why cancers tend to spread to certain organs rather than others.

“When cancer tumors metastasize, they go to some organs and not to others – we’ve known this for many years,” said Wang, who is


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