To form metastases in healthy tissue, a tumor must displace surrounding tissue. To do this, it must create a mechanically stable resistance to create space for itself. On the other hand, a large deformability of individual cancer cells is advantageous to invasively invade other tissues out of the primary tumor. These opposing demands are met in malignant tumors by making the cancer cells mechanically more heterogeneous and softer. This results in a new mechanical state that combines the advantages of solids and fluids. A broad distribution of elasticity of individual cancer cells allows a mechanically stable tumor to contain a high degree of motile, metastatically competent cells.
Article in Physics: "Rigid tumours contain soft cancer cells".
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