Minimization of thermodynamic costs in cancer cell invasion
Metastasis, the truly lethal aspect of cancer, occurs when metastatic cancer cells in a tumor break through the basement membrane and penetrate the extracellular matrix. We show that MDA-MB-231 metastatic breast cancer cells cooperatively invade a 3D collagen matrix while following a glucose gradient. The invasion front of the cells is a dynamic one, with different cells assuming the lead on a time scale of 70 h. The front cell leadership is dynamic presumably because of metabolic costs associated with a long-range strain field that precedes the invading cell front, which we have imaged using confocal imaging and marker beads imbedded in the collagen matrix. We suggest this could be a quantitative assay for an invasive phenotype tracking a glucose gradient and show that the invading cells act in a cooperative manner by exchanging leaders in the invading front.