Biophysical measurement of brain tumor cohesion

Brian S. Winters, Scott R. Shepard, Ramsey A. Foty

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Scopus citations


An advantage of using 3D multicellular spheres to study tumor biology is that they better approximate the interactions encountered by cells in vivo. Our previous studies have shown that the process of spheroid formation is governed by the same thermodynamic principles driving the formation of liquid droplets. This liquid-like behavior enables us to measure a key property influencing tumor behavior, namely, intercellular cohesion. We have developed a method, tissue surface tensiometry (TST), to measure the cohesivity, expressible as surface tension (σ), of tissue aggregates under physiologic conditions. This study utilizes TST to measure the cohesivity of 3 widely used malignant astrocytoma cell lines of different in vitro invasive potentials. We compare invasiveness with aggregate cohesivity and with the expression of N-cadherin, a key mediator of cell-cell cohesion in neural tissues. We show that the cell lines exhibit liquid-like behavior since they form spheroids whose surface tension is both force- and volume-independent; that aggregates from each cell line have a distinct surface tension that correlates with their in vitro invasive capacity; that dexamethasone (Dex), a widely used therapeutic agent for the treatment of tumor-related cerebral edema, increases aggregate cohesivity and decreases invasiveness; that dexamethasone treatment decreases invasion in a dose-dependent manner but only when cells are in direct contact with one another; and that dexmediated decreased invasiveness correlates with increased aggregate cohesivity as measured by TST but not with N-cadherin expression or function. Our results demonstrate that for these cell lines, cohesivity is an excellent predictor of in vitro invasiveness.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)371-379
Number of pages9
JournalInternational Journal of Cancer
Issue number3
StatePublished - Apr 10 2005

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


  • Cohesivity
  • Dexamethasone
  • Invasion
  • Malignant astrocytoma
  • Tissue surface tensiometry


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