Cancerous Conduits

Metastatic cancer cells use nanotubes to manipulate blood vessels.

Amanda B. Keener
Mar 31, 2016

MAKING CONTACT: Breast cancer cells (white arrows) in culture deliver microRNAs to endothelial cells through filamentous nanotubes (yellow arrow).LABORATORY OF SHILADITYA SENGUPTA

EDITOR'S CHOICE IN CELL & MOLECULAR BIOLOGY

The paper
Y. Conner et al., “Physical nanoscale conduit-mediated communication between tumour cells and the endothelium modulates endothelial phenotype,” Nat Commun, 6:8671, 2015.

Branching Out
Harvard bioengineer Shiladitya Sengupta and his team were establishing a culture system to model the matrix and blood vessel networks that surround tumors when they found that human breast cancer cells spread out along blood vessel endothelial cells rather than form spheroid tumors as expected. Taking a closer look using scanning electron microscopy, they spied nanoscale filaments consisting of membrane and cytoskeletal components linking the two cell types.  

Manipulative Metastases
These cancer cell–spawned nanotubes, the team discovered, could transfer a dye from cancer cells to endothelial cells both in culture and in a...