As cancers progress from benign to malignant forms, the normal structure of the tissues is lost, resulting in increased stiffness of the affected organs. It is now well known that such changes in stiffness of cancer-affected organs speeds up cancer progression, resulting in invasion of the tumour cells into surrounding regions and their spread to distant sites within the body. We therefore need sophisticated new methods to understand how the changes in the structure of cancer tissues contributes to this disease, and identify the abnormal aspects that need to be targeted by new cancer therapies.
Three-dimensional (3D) cultures of normal and cancer tissues allows us to not only reproduce the architecture of normal tissues and their cancerous counterparts but also use sophisticated imaging approaches to study cancer in ways that are not possible in research animals or patients. Moreover, this approach is superior to the use of cultured cell lines, which are maintained in a two-dimensional configuration that does not fully reflect their natural environment in real tissues. Yet, because of their relatively large size, imaging complex 3D tissue structures presents new challenges that can only be resolved by the use of the latest generation of lasers and microscopes that allow live imaging deep into the tissue at a very high resolution.
This requested infrastructure is critical to study the processes that drive abnormal proliferation and invasiveness of cancers and to achieve our aims of identifying new targets that can be used to improve personalised therapies against cancer.