Conventional biological wisdom holds that living cells interact with their environment through an elaborate network of chemical signals. As a result many therapies for the treatment of cancer and other diseases in which cell behavior goes awry focus on drugs that block or disrupt harmful chemical signals. Now, a new road for future therapies may have been opened with scientific evidence for a never seen before way in which cells can also sense and respond to physical forces.
A team of researchers with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and the University of California (UC) Berkeley has shown that the biochemical activity of a cellular protein system, which plays a key role in cancer metastasis, can be altered by the application of a direct physical force. This discovery sheds important new light on how the protein signaling complex known as EphA2/ephrin-A1 contributes to the initiation, growth and progression of cancerous cells, and also suggests how the activity of cancer cells can be affected by surrounding tissue.