Cell-to-Cell Communication in Cancer: Workshop Report

Recent advances in emerging technologies, such as nanotechnology and microfluidics, have fueled new discoveries and enhanced our understanding of cancer on the single cell level. Each tumor is made up billions of cells that vary from one another. Studying single cells has enabled scientists to have a better appreciation for the complexity of the cellular makeup of individual tumors and the impact of this diversity – referred to as intratumoral heterogeneity – on breast cancer outcomes.   

BCRF, in partnership with the National Cancer Institute (NCI), convened a workshop titled “Cell-to-Cell Communication in Cancer” hosted by Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. The workshop brought together experts in cell biology and engineering in an effort to begin to identify ways in which the analyses of single cells and cell–to–cell interactions could lead to better treatments for cancer.

A report summarizing the workshop published in npj Breast Cancer highlights three key focus areas for further development:

1) Using single cell analysis to improve cancer diagnoses and treatments.

2) Understanding the role of cell–to–cell communication on tumor progression and metastasis.

3) Improving experimental methods and models to recapitulate the tumor microenvironment in the laboratory.

Workshop participants were in agreement on a number of opportunities, as well as challenges in capitalizing on advances in technology to achieve real impact on patient outcomes. High on the list of priorities was the development of effective collaboration that could leverage expertise and resources to accelerate progress. While many hurdles remain, this meeting was a first step in bringing the best minds together to build consensus on a collective course of action.

BCRF is leading efforts to foster collaborations to advance breast cancer research through its continued support of a broad portfolio of scientists engaged in collaborative projects around the globe. Support for meetings such as this represents another way in which BCRF is advancing its mission to end breast cancer.