What is epithelial-mesenchymal plasticity and why is it important for metastasis?

Speaker: Herbert Levine

Date: Wed, May 6, 2020

Location: Zoom, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada

Conference: Mathematical Biology Seminar

Subject: Mathematics, Mathematical Biology

Class: Scientific


Until very recently most cancer biologists operated with the assumption that the most common route to metastasis involved cells of the primary tumor transforming to a motile single-cell phenotype via complete EMT (the epithelial-mesenchymal transition). This change allowed them to migrate individually to distant organs, eventually leading to clonal growths in other locations. But, a new more nuanced picture has been emerging, based on advanced measurements and on computational systems biology approaches. It has now been realized that cells can readily adopt states with hybrid properties, use these properties to move collectively and cooperatively, and reach distant niches as highly metastatic clusters. This talk will focus on the accumulating evidence for this revised perspective, the role of biological physics theory in instigating this whole line of investigation, and on open questions currently under investigation.