One major reason why cancer is so difficult to cure is because it can spread from one location to other organs, in a process known as metastasis. Cancer cells move around the body by invading blood vessels and travelling down them, before leaving to proliferate in new tissues. How they are able to move out of the bloodstream is still poorly understood, so researchers have designed an artificial set-up that mimics blood vessels to study this final step in their journey. Tumour cells are injected into the system, and their behaviour can be observed under the microscope. From left to right and top to bottom, these images, taken at half-hour intervals, show a cancer cell (in green) squeezing its way out after it becomes trapped in a vessel. This new technique should eventually allow drugs to be tested for their ability to interfere with this process, and so hinder metastasis.
Written by Emmanuelle Briolat
BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.