Nature Reviews Cancer 11, 512-522 (July 2011) | doi:10.1038/nrc3080

OpinionThe physics of cancer: the role of physical interactions and mechanical forces in metastasis

Denis Wirtz1, Konstantinos Konstantopoulos1 & Peter C. Searson1  About the authors


Metastasis is a complex, multistep process responsible for >90% of cancer-related deaths. In addition to genetic and external environmental factors, the physical interactions of cancer cells with their microenvironment, as well as their modulation by mechanical forces, are key determinants of the metastatic process. We reconstruct the metastatic process and describe the importance of key physical and mechanical processes at each step of the cascade. The emerging insight into these physical interactions may help to solve some long-standing questions in disease progression and may lead to new approaches to developing cancer diagnostics and therapies.

Author affiliations

  1. The authors are at the Departments of Materials Science and Engineering, Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and Oncology, the Institute for Nanobiotechnology, Johns Hopkins Center of Cancer Nanotechnology Excellence, Johns Hopkins Physical Sciences in Oncology Center, Johns Hopkins University, 3400 North Charles Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21218, USA.

Correspondence to: Denis Wirtz1 Email:

Correspondence to: Konstantinos Konstantopoulos1 Email:

Correspondence to: Peter C. Searson1 Email:

Published online 24 June 2011