Review Article

Engineering the pre-metastatic niche

  • Nature Biomedical Engineering 1, Article number: 0077 (2017)
  • doi:10.1038/s41551-017-0077
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Abstract

The pre-metastatic niche — the accumulation of aberrant immune cells and extracellular-matrix proteins in target organs — primes the initially healthy organ microenvironment and renders it amenable for subsequent colonization by metastatic cancer cells. By attracting metastatic cells, mimics of the pre-metastatic niche offer both diagnostic and therapeutic potential. However, deconstructing the complexity of the niche by identifying the interactions between cell populations as well as the mediatory roles of the immune system, soluble factors, extracellular-matrix proteins and stromal cells has proved challenging. Experimental models are needed to recapitulate niche-population biology in situ and to mediate in vivo tumour-cell homing, colonization and proliferation. In this Review, we outline the biology of the pre-metastatic niche and discuss advances in the engineering of niche-mimicking biomaterials that regulate the behaviour of tumour cells at an implant site. Such ‘oncomaterials’ offer strategies for the early detection of metastatic events, the inhibition of the formation of the pre-metastatic niche and the attenuation of metastatic progression.

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Acknowledgements

We thank K. Aguado for figure illustrations. B.A.A. and G.G.B. acknowledge the support of a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship. Financial support for this work was provided by the National Institutes of Health and the National Cancer Institute (R01 CA173745).

Author information

Author notes

    • Brian A. Aguado
    •  & Grace G. Bushnell

    These authors contributed equally to this work.

Affiliations

  1. Department of Biomedical Engineering, Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois 60208, USA.

    • Brian A. Aguado
  2. Simpson Querrey Institute for BioNanotechnology, Northwestern University, Chicago, Illinois 60611, USA.

    • Brian A. Aguado
  3. Department of Biomedical Engineering, University of Michigan, 1119 Carl A. Gerstacker Building, 2200 Bonisteel Boulevard, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109-2099, USA.

    • Grace G. Bushnell
    •  & Lonnie D. Shea
  4. Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, Alabama 35487, USA.

    • Shreyas S. Rao
  5. Departments of Surgery, Pathology and Biomedical Engineering, Division of Surgical Oncology, University of Michigan, 3303 Cancer Center, 1500 East Medical Center Drive, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48105, USA.

    • Jacqueline S. Jeruss

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Contributions

B.A.A., G.G.B. and L.D.S. wrote and edited the manuscript. B.A.A. prepared the figures. B.A.A. and G.G.B. prepared the tables. S.S.R. and J.S.J. edited and advised on the manuscript.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Jacqueline S. Jeruss or Lonnie D. Shea.

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