Shivani Sharma, University of California, Los Angeles
Application of AFM to the Nanomechanics of Cancer
Written by Vineet Venugopal
Cancer is not one disease but a collection of several diseases. The usual procedure for the detection and diagnosis of cancer begins with the patient being identified with a tumor/mass, which is then biopsied to determine its histology and cytology to establish a diagnosis. Shivani Sharma outlined in detail the progress that had been made in using the atomic force microscope (AFM) in cancer diagnosis. Different types of cancer and different stages of cancer have different biomolecular characteristics such as actin cytoskeletons, which substantially changes the stiffness of a cancer cell and its ability to metastasize. Most studies on cancer biomechanics have been done on single cells or biopsied tissues. By using a specially designed needle that has a piezosensor attached to it, this stiffness can be evaluated in real time, in situ, during needle aspiration by a radiologist. Such determination is bound to have important implications for the diagnosis of many types of cancer. An emerging class of biomarkers, called exosomes, which are nanoparticles secreted by cancer cells in easily assessable body fluids such as blood and saliva, were also discussed, where AFM is making important contributions as a powerful characterization tool.