Triple Negative Breast Cancer cells primed in biomechanically soft or stiff microenvironments demonstrate striking differences in cell behavior, which has important consequences for the different aspects of metastatic dissemination. Biomechanical priming in stiff microenvironments drives enhanced cell proliferation and three-dimensional invasion, whereas biomechanical priming in softer microenvironments increases anchorage independent survival, resistance to shear stress, and contrary to expectation, increases cell survival and outgrowth at secondary organs. Changes in cellular metabolism (fatty acid oxidation in particular) appear to underpin these striking differences.

Fluorescent image of cancer cells (cell nuclei in blue) stockpiling lipids in the form of lipid droplets (in red). The researchers showed these lipid droplets, driven by a softer environment, to be critical in the survival of cancer cells during metastasis. Dr Elysse Filipe, Garvan Institute