The intersection of mechanobiology and cellular metabolism in cancer


The intersection of mechanobiology and cellular metabolism in cancer

Cynthia Reinhart-King, Vanderbilt University

3:30 p.m., October 25, 2022   |   B001 Geddes Hall

During solid tumor progression, cells undergo mechanical and metabolic changes that help to fuel metastasis. To move, cells must utilize ATP to fuel the the cellular contractility and forces that sustain migration, however very little is known about how the metabolic state of a cell affects its ability to migrate and vice versa.

In this talk, I will describe my lab’s efforts to understand the forces driving cell movements in the tumor microenvironment and the energy required for movement. Combining tissue engineering approaches, mouse models, and patient samples, we create and validate in vitro systems to understand how cells navigate the tumor stroma environment with the goal of identifying novel targets of cancer metastasis.

Cynthia Reinhart-King
Cynthia Reinhart-King

Microfabrication and native biomaterials are used to build mimics of the paths created and taken by cells during metastasis. Using these platforms, we have described a role for a balance between cellular energetics, cell and matrix stiffness, and confinement in determining migration behavior. Moreover, we have extended this work into investigating the intersection of the diabetes and the diabetic tissue microenvironment with tumor progression, showing that mechanical changes in the tissue due to diabetes can promote cancer. Overall, our work has demonstrated key mechanical drivers of metastasis within the tissue microenvironment.

Cynthia Reinhart-King is the Cornelius Vanderbilt Professor of Engineering in Biomedical Engineering and the Senior Associate Dean for Research in the School of Engineering at Vanderbilt University.

Prior to joining the Vanderbilt faculty in 2017, she was on the faculty of Cornell University where she received tenure in the Department of Biomedical Engineering. She obtained undergraduate degrees in Chemical Engineering and Biology at MIT and her Ph.D. at the University of Pennsylvania in the Department of Bioengineering.

Her lab’s research interests are in the areas of cell mechanics and cell migration specifically in the context of cancer and atherosclerosis. She was awarded the Rita Schaffer Young Investigator Award in 2010 and the Mid-Career Award in 2018 from the Biomedical Engineering Society, an NSF CAREER Award, the 2010 Sonny Yau ‘72 Excellence in Teaching Award, a Cook Award for “contributions towards improving the climate for women at Cornell,” the Zellman Warhaft Commitment to Diversity Award from the Cornell College of Engineering, and the Vanderbilt Chancellor’s Award for Research.

She is a fellow of the Biomedical Engineering Society and the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE), and she was an inaugural New Voices Fellow of the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine. She served as a standing member of the NIH CMT study section panel, and currently serves as an elected Board Member of AIMBE and President-elect of the Biomedical Engineering Society.