Getting closer to cancer


Rebecca Pool

Thursday, July 14, 2016 - 14:45
Image: 'Cancer to the Bone' [National Cancer Institute \ Indiana Univ. Simon Cancer Center]
US National Cancer Institute is showcasing more than 80 stunning images of cancer-related cells, tissues and molecule, captured by researchers from the nation's cancer research centres.
The collection forms part of the 2016 NCI Cancer Close Up project and provides examples of important microscopy-aided studies at the NCI-Designated Cancer Centers.
All available to view online, the images intend to highlight cutting-edge cancer research as well as spur public interest in science.
'Kras-Driven Lung Cancer', imaged by Eric Snyder from the Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah.
In an image called 'Kras-Driven Lung Cancer' from a genetically engineered mouse model, lung cancer driven by the Kras oncogene is pictured in purple.
As a key driver in many types of cancer, the Kras gene makes a promising target for new cancer therapies. 
A time-lapse, confocal image series  - each frame was taken every ten seconds - reveals microtentacles on the surface of a breast tumor cell.
'Time Series of Microtentacles on a Breast Tumour Cell' by Stuart S. Martin from the National Cancer Institute\Univ. of Maryland Greenebaum Cancer Center. 
Cells are held by lipid tethers on the surface of microfluidic channels, to enable confocal microscopy of microtentacle dynamics without the blurring caused by the drift of free-floating tumor cells.
Since the microenvironments of metastasis - bloodstream, lymphatics - require tumour cells to transit in a free-floating state, this cell tethering technology allows the dynamics of floating cells to be studied to improve the understanding of metastasis.
A further image is called 'Cancer Spreading to the Bone'.
'Cancer to the Bone' shows a large multinucleated osteoclast (red) resorbing bone matrix (orange) adjacent to cancer cells (blue). [Khalid Mohammad, Theresa Guise, National Cancer Institute \ Indiana Univ. Simon Cancer Center]
When cancer cells metastasize to the bone microenvironment from the primary site, they secrete factors that stimulate osteoclasts to resorb mineralized bone matrix and release stored growth factors that further enhance the growth of cancer cells.
Meanwhile, an image of breast cancer tumour and its microenvironment was obtained from a live mouse model using multiphoton microscopy and endogenous fluorescence.
'Breast Tumor Microenvironment' by Joseph Szulczewski, David Inman, Kevin Eliceiri, and Patricia Keely from National Cancer Institute\Carbone Cancer Center at the University of Wisconsin.
The image was obtained without any fluorophores, stains, or dyes, using only the metabolic co-factors of NADH and FAD, which are already inside of cells, along with second harmonic generation to see collagen.
This technique has important clinical potential for patients who require label-free imaging, and may lead to more effective diagnoses and treatments. Tumor cells display in cyan, macrophages in red, collagen fibers in green.
Most of the images were captured using fluorescent optical microscopy, using fluorescent stains to highlight cellular structures.
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