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J Biomech. 2020 Feb 13;100:109568. doi: 10.1016/j.jbiomech.2019.109568. Epub 2019 Dec 19.

Collective tumor cell migration in the presence of fibroblasts.

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University of Stavanger, Faculty of Science and Technology, 4068 Stavanger, Norway.
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and North Carolina State University, Joint Department of Biomedical Engineering, Chapel Hill, NC 27599, USA.
University of Stavanger, Faculty of Science and Technology, 4068 Stavanger, Norway. Electronic address:


In this work we investigate fibroblast-enhanced tumor cell migration in an idealized tumor setting through a computational model based on a multiphase approach consisting of three phases, namely tumor cells, fibroblasts and interstitial fluid. The interaction between fibroblasts and tumor cells has previously been investigated through this model (Urdal et al., 2019) to comply with reported in vitro experimental results (Shieh et al., 2011). Using the information gained from in vitro single-cell behavior, what will the effect of fibroblast-enhanced tumor cell migration be in a tumor setting? In particular, how will tumor cells migrate in a heterogeneous tumor environment compared to controlled in vitro microfluidic-based experiments? From what we know about the behavior of a tumor, is that collective invasion into adjacent tissue is frequently observed. Here, we want to elucidate how fibroblasts may guide tumor cells towards draining lymphatics to which tumor cells may subsequently intravasate and thus spread to other parts of the body. Fibroblasts can act as leader cells, where they create tracks within the extracellular matrix (ECM) by matrix remodeling and contraction. In addition, a heterotypic mechanical adhesion between fibroblasts and tumor cells also assist the fibroblasts to act as leader cells. Our simulation results show how the interaction between the two cell types yields collective migration of tumor cells outwards from the tumor where fibroblasts dictate the direction of migration. The model also describes how this well-orchestrated invasive behavior is the result of a proper combination of different interaction forces between cell-ECM, fibroblast-ECM, fluid-ECM and cell-fibroblast.


Autologous chemotaxis; Cell-migration; Chemokine; Collective invasion; Interstitial fluid; Interstitial fluid pressure; Lymphatic flow; Multiphase flow; Vascular flow

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