Physical Signatures of Cancer Metastasis

Science Behind the Image

Metastasis is the development of secondary malignant growths at a distance from a primary site of cancer. In order to study physical signatures of metastasis, Abdul Malmi Kakkada, Xin Li, Himadri Samanta (post-docs in Dave Thirumalai's group - Department of Chemistry at the UT Austin) and Sumit Sinha (Graduate Student in Thirumalai group) have established a model for the proliferation behavior of tumor cells.This model is used to provide detailed analyses of individual cell trajectories and identify complex spatial/time dependent cell migration patterns. This provides insights into how cells are "prepared" for invasion into areas surrounding the tumor. The visualization shown depicts the velocity of each cell (colored by the magnitude of the velocity with the arrows representing the direction). In the tumor cross-section, it is clear to see that faster moving cells are concentrated at the outer periphery of the tumor. Arrows indicating the velocity direction show that cells in the periphery tend to move farther away from the center of the tumor as opposed to cells closer to the center of the tumor whose direction of motion is essentially isotropic. This prediction agrees well with the experiments, which showed that cells at the periphery of the tumor spheroid move persistently along the radial direction, resulting in polarized tumor growth.

Visualization Behind the Image

The models and simulations are done in MATLAB on the Stampede supercomputer at the Texas Advanced Computing Center. Most of the simulations require 1 node and 2 days of compute time to complete. In order to improve the visual fidelity of the 3D cell propagation data, the simulation data was visualized in Paraview 5.3 using the OSPRay renderer by Anne Bowen at the Texas Advanced Computing Center.



Anne Bowen

Department of Chemistry, UT Austin

Abdul Malmi Kakkada (Dave Thirumalai's group)