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Logan Northcutt

Department: Cancer Biology

Faculty Mentor: Marjan Rafat, Ph.D.

Dissertation DescriptionInvestigating the correlation of matrix stiffness and tumor cell invasion

Metastasis of breast cancer cells into the bone marrow is a poorly understood issue and can cause decreased quality of life for patients. Although many mechanisms have been teased out regarding the process of bone destruction due to awakening cancer cells, little is understood regarding the biophysical cues that cause cancer cells to exit dormancy. Previous research has shown that as matrix rigidity (stiffness) of the microenvironment increases, there is an increased invasive phenotype within the cells. My research focuses on developing synthetic environments to mimic the stiffness of the bone marrow and to study tumor cell behavior in those environments. We use material science, engineering approaches and imaging to investigate tumor cell behavior at different stiffnesses that mirror the bone marrow and better understand cancer cell dormancy.