Prostate cancer is a major health concern in the U.S. Its metastatic phenotype is the major source of its morbidity and mortality. Two essential pre-requisites for the transition of prostate cancer from a curable. organ-confined lesion into a malignant and therapy-resistant disease are detachment of cells from the tumor and preferential association of tumor cells with bone. These two processes are strongly influenced by cell-cell cohesion and cell-substratum adhesion, attributes that impart to tumors quantifiable biophysical properties. These properties are tumor elasticity (a measure of a tumors' ability to deform in response to an applied stress), tumor viscosity (an indication of cellular motility within the tumor), and tumor cohesivity (a dynamic and complex manifestation of cell-cell cohesion and cell-substratum adhesion).
Our lab has developed a novel in vitro method, tissue surface tensiometry (TST, to simultaneously measure these properties, and are applying TST to investigate the biophysical and biomolecular changes accompanying the malignant progression of prostate cancer. Ongoing projects in our lab include a) assessment of the efficacy of tissue surface tensiometry as an accurate predictor of the invasive and metastatic potential of prostate tumors, b) exploration of how changes in various key molecular and cellular components underlying cell-cell cohesivity and cell-substratum adhesivity influence the elasticoviscous and cohesive properties of the tumor, and c) employment of a novel in vitro organotropism assay to address key issues regarding dissemination to bone of human prostate cancer cells.