The Carmona-Fontaine lab will explore how cancer cells coordinate their metastatic spread. During development, animal cells often migrate as groups that coordinate their movements to form the fetal body. Malignant cancer cells appear to exhibit similar coordination when they depart from a primary tumor and invade other tissues, a process called metastasis. In preliminary studies, I have found that cancers of the breast, skin, lung, colon, and pancreas display a synchronized collective migration. These cells keep track of one another by producing and detecting mechanical perturbations produced as they pull themselves along the collagen fibers that form the connective tissues throughout the body. Using techniques in cell and molecular genetics, biophysics, and live cell microscopy, we will identify the cellular structures and signaling molecules that allow cancer cells to sense such mechanical forces—and determine whether disrupting this system can hamper cancer cell coordination and their ability to metastasize. Our findings could lead to new approaches to anticipating and preventing metastasis, the primary cause of death in cancer patients worldwide.