New study offers clues to how cancer spreads to the brain

April 11, 2023
Researchers used microfluidic devices to track what happens to cancer cells as they migrate and take root in the brain.

When cancer spreads to the brain, treatment options fall off. Most of the drugs designed to target metastases do not cross the blood-brain barrier or are ineffective at treating brain metastases.

To understand the molecular processes that influence how cancer cells pass through the blood-brain barrier, researchers used two microfluidic chips that mapped cancer cell migration to the brain and looked at what was happening in the blood-brain niche. Results are published in the journal Advanced NanoBiomed Research.

Using breast cancer cell lines, they found that Dkk-1, a cytokine released by the astrocytes, triggers the cancer cells to migrate. Dkk-1 is known to play a role in in Wnt signaling, a key signaling pathway linked to cancer progression.

Michigan Medicine release