The complex microenvironment in a solid tumor is a major barrier in understanding the molecular and mechanical mechanisms that control cancer progression. Biophysical approaches used to quantify the intracellular forces from the actin cytoskeleton and surface traction forces from adhesion allow us to probe the biomechanical properties of individual cells exposed to tumor-mimicking conditions, such as secreted soluble factors, mechanical stress, and hypoxia, with an unprecedented level of detail. By systematically investigating the parameters in the tumor microenvironment that control cancer cell behavior, as well as their interactions with tumor-associated stromal cells, we hope to gain a better understanding of malignant cell behavior, which will be used to develop new strategies for treating cancer.
Bone marrow derived mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) that accumulate in tumors due to their natural tropism for inflammatory tissues may also enhance the metastatic potential of cancer cells through direct interactions with cancer cells or paracrine signaling within the tumor microenvironment. Molecular and biophysical studies, investigating the homing and interactions of MSCs with the tumor microenvironment, are essential in developing new strategies for controlling the behavior and even manipulating the fate of MSCs in the tumor.