The existence of this program is great news for anyone who believes in the future of applying the laws of physics and the use of mechanical signals in oncology.
Europe supports a consortium of 16 participants that aims to image and to measure the active forces in a cancerous tumor. Measuring these forces in vivo and in situ and in a non-invasive way was not possible not so long ago.
The consortium includes 4 French groups and must last 4 years: beginning on 01/01/2016 for an end on 31/12/2019. Project ID: 668039.
The innovation is based on Magnetic Resonance Force Imaging (MRF), which can measure forces such as Cell Traction Force (CTF) at the interface between the extracellular matrix and the cells lining the tumor tissue. These cells are particularly important because they are the ones that will migrate and give metastases.
The MRF directly measures the strain and the stiffness of the tissues in relation to the displacement (very minimal, it is quasi-static) caused by the arrival of an applied acoustic wave.
MRF (or MRE, Magnetic Resonance Elastography) goes through three stages:
a) mechanical vibration is applied to the examined tissue;
b) an MRI sequence encodes the micro-displacements caused by the mechanical wave;
c) an inversion algorithm gives a quantitative image, voxel by voxel, of the stiffness of the tissue.
It is also planned to apply forces to the tumors analyzed to cause mechanosignaling signals.
The impact could be in breast cancer to better delineate the primary tumor and the response to treatment, and in liver cancer to better see and quantify the invasion of microvessels prohibiting liver transplantation and thus to better select the recipients.
So, we can see a non-invasive technology in situ and in vivo to calculate the stress of a tumor.
And one day to act on it?