Second-harmonic generation (SHG) allows for the analysis of tumor collagen structural changes throughout metastatic progression. SHG directionality, measured through the ratio of the forward-propagating to backward-propagating signal (F/B ratio), is affected by collagen fibril diameter, spacing, and disorder of fibril packing within a fiber. As tumors progress, these parameters evolve, producing concurrent changes in F/B. It has been recently shown that the F/B of highly metastatic invasive ductal carcinoma (IDC) breast tumors is significantly different from less metastatic tumors. This suggests a possible relationship between the microstructure of collagen, as measured by the F/B, and the ability of tumor cells to locomote through that collagen. Utilizing in vitro collagen gels of different F/B ratios, we explored the relationship between collagen microstructure and motility of tumor cells in a “clean” environment, free of the myriad cells, and signals found in in vivo. We found a significant relationship between F/B and the total distance traveled by the tumor cell, as well as both the average and maximum velocities of the cells. Consequently, one possible mechanism underlying the observed relationship between tumor F/B and metastatic output in IDC patient samples is a direct influence of collagen structure on tumor cell motility.
Second Harmonic Generation (SHG) of collagen signals allows for the analysis of collagen structural changes throughout metastatic progression. The directionality of coherent SHG signals, measured through the ratio of the forward-propagating to backward propagating signal (F/B ratio), is affected by fibril diameter, spacing, and order versus disorder of fibril packing within a fiber. As tumors interact with their microenvironment and metastasize, it causes changes in these parameters, and concurrent changes in the F/B ratio. Specifically, the F/B ratio of breast tumors that are highly metastatic to the lymph nodes is significantly higher than those in tumors with restricted lymph node involvement. We utilized in vitro analysis of tumor cell motility through collagen gels of different microstructures, and hence different F/B ratios, to explore the relationship between collagen microstructures and metastatic capabilities of the tumor. By manipulating environmental factors of fibrillogenesis and biochemical factors of fiber composition we created methods of varying the average F/B ratio of the gel, with significant changes in fiber structure occurring as a result of alterations in incubation temperature and increasing type III collagen presence. A migration assay was performed using simultaneous SHG and fluorescent imaging to measure average penetration depth of human tumor cells into the gels of significantly different F/B ratios, with preliminary data demonstrating that cells penetrate deeper into gels of higher F/B ratio caused by lower type III collagen concentration. Determining the role of collagen structure in tumor cell motility will aid in the future prediction metastatic capabilities of a primary tumor.
Alteration of the extracellular matrix in tumor stroma influences efficiency of cell locomotion away from the primary tumor into surrounding tissues and vasculature, thereby affecting metastatic potential. We study matrix changes in breast cancer through the use of second harmonic generation (SHG) of collagen in order to improve the current understanding of breast tumor stromal development. Specifically, we utilize a quantitative analysis of the ratio of forward to backward propagating SHG signal (F/B ratio) to monitor collagen throughout ductal and lobular carcinoma development. After detection of a significant decrease in the F/B ratio of invasive but not in situ ductal carcinoma compared with healthy tissue, the collagen F/B ratio is investigated to determine the evolution of fibrillar collagen changes throughout tumor progression. Results are compared with the progression of lobular carcinoma, whose F/B signature also underwent significant evolution during progression, albeit in a different manner, which offers insight into varying methods of tissue penetration and collagen manipulation between the carcinomas. This research provides insights into trends of stromal reorganization throughout breast tumor development.