Biomechanics of Breast Cancer

Schematic representation of transition from normal human breast to DCIS and invasive cancer.

Ductal Carcinoma in Situ (DCIS) is a pre-invasive stage of breast cancer, in which tumour cells are kept within the myoepithelial layer of the mammary ducts (figure 1). Breaching of this layer causes the release of previously confined tumour cells to the stroma and surrounding tissues. These cells can now invade and form metastasis in other organs, setting the progression from a localised and curable DCIS to a devastating invasive disease. The tumour microenvironment (stroma) has been shown to highly contribute to cancer invasion.

The mammary gland is composed of a branched network of ducts which are made up of epithelial bilayer; inner epithelial cell and outer myoepithelial cell (figure 2), surrounded by a basement membrane. Physiologically, the cell groups are responsible for milk production and ejection, respectively. Ducts are embedded in stroma which consists of cellular and non-cellular compartments. Fibroblasts (figure 3) are the major cell group of the cellular compartment. In our group, we are interested in the study of the biomechanical properties of these cells and how they can influence cancer and metastasis progression.

Schematic representation of the structure of normal human breast.

DIC image of a human breast fibroblast.

DIC image of a human breast fibroblast.