The nanomechanical signature of breast cancer

February 1, 2013, American Institute of Physics

The texture of breast cancer tissue differs from that of healthy tissue. Using a cutting-edge tissue diagnostic device, a group of researchers in Basel, Switzerland, has determined one key difference: cancerous tissue is a mix of stiff and soft zones, whereas healthy tissue has uniform stiffness. This new finding may one day help improve breast cancer diagnosis and therapy by providing a unique nanomechanical signature of tumor tissue properties that indicates the potential for the cancer to spread. The team will present its work at the 57th Annual Meeting of the Biophysical Society (BPS), held Feb. 2-6, 2013, in Philadelphia, Pa.

"It is slowly being recognized that a key to the cancer problem lies in the physical properties of the tumor tissue and that biomechanics plays a key role in cancer , invasion, and metastasis," explains Marija Plodinec of the University of Basel in Switzerland. However, contradictory opinions persist about tissue texture, and the information is hard to get at – cellular mechanics happen at the nanoscale, 1-100 millionths of a meter. This research may help resolve the controversy.

To determine stiffness, the team applied a nanoscale microscope tip to a breast to make an indentation, then visualized and measured the indentation with an indentation-type , which provides unprecedented spatial resolution. "The most significant outcome of our measurements is determining that in healthy tissue the stiffness of the sample is homogeneous," Plodinec says. "Benign tissue exhibits a larger variability and malignant tissue shows a unique, very heterogeneous profile with soft and stiff parts alternating."

A key aspect of their experiment is the adaptation of to rapidly collect and correlate nanoscale stiffness measurements across entire biopsy samples. They used a device called ARTIDIS ("Automated and Reliable Tissue Diagnostics"), invented by Plodinec and colleagues Marko Loparic and Roderick Lim. Partnering with industry, their next step is to develop ARTIDIS into an easy-to-use device for clinical application, hopefully within two years.

"A critical advantage of ARTIDIS technology, as we see it, is that it provides an estimate of tumor aggressiveness and metastatic spread based on the unique nanomechanical signature," Plodinec says. "This signature may have potential prognostic and predictive value as a marker for therapeutic applications."

Explore further: Feeling the force of cancer

More information: Presentation #1639-Pos, "The nanomechanical signature of breast cancer," will take place at 1:45 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 4, 2013, in the Pennsylvania Convention Center, Hall C. ABSTRACT: tinyurl.com/b2edbq6

Related Stories

Feeling the force of cancer

October 23, 2012

The spread of cancer cells from primary tumors to other parts of the body remains the leading cause of cancer-related deaths. The research group of Prof. Roderick Lim, Argovia Professor for Nanobiology of the Biozentrum and ...

The role of fat in assessing breast cancer risk

October 26, 2011

It is known that a high proportion of dense breast tissue, as seen with a mammogram, is associated with a high risk of breast cancer. But the role of non-dense fat tissue in the breast is less clear. New research published ...

Research makes significant cancer breakthrough

August 8, 2012

(Medical Xpress) -- A major breakthrough by scientists at Queen's University Belfast could lead to more effective treatments for throat and cervical cancer. The discovery could see the development of new therapies, which ...

Breast cancer prognosis goes high tech

April 18, 2011

Cancer researchers at the University of Calgary are investigating a new tool to use for the prognosis of breast cancer in patients. This new digital tool will help give patients a more accurate assessment of how abnormal ...

Recommended for you

Meteorite source in asteroid belt not a single debris field

February 17, 2019

A new study published online in Meteoritics and Planetary Science finds that our most common meteorites, those known as L chondrites, come from at least two different debris fields in the asteroid belt. The belt contains ...

Diagnosing 'art acne' in Georgia O'Keeffe's paintings

February 17, 2019

Even Georgia O'Keeffe noticed the pin-sized blisters bubbling on the surface of her paintings. For decades, conservationists and scholars assumed these tiny protrusions were grains of sand, kicked up from the New Mexico desert ...

Archaeologists discover Incan tomb in Peru

February 16, 2019

Peruvian archaeologists discovered an Incan tomb in the north of the country where an elite member of the pre-Columbian empire was buried, one of the investigators announced Friday.

Where is the universe hiding its missing mass?

February 15, 2019

Astronomers have spent decades looking for something that sounds like it would be hard to miss: about a third of the "normal" matter in the Universe. New results from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory may have helped them ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.