Whole-Body Profiling of Cancer Metastasis with Single-Cell Resolution

Cell Rep. 2017 Jul 5;20(1):236-250. doi: 10.1016/j.celrep.2017.06.010.


Stochastic and proliferative events initiated from a single cell can disrupt homeostatic balance and lead to fatal disease processes such as cancer metastasis. To overcome metastasis, it is necessary to detect and quantify sparsely distributed metastatic cells throughout the body at early stages. Here, we demonstrate that clear, unobstructed brain/body imaging cocktails and computational analysis (CUBIC)-based cancer (CUBIC-cancer) analysis with a refractive index (RI)-optimized protocol enables comprehensive cancer cell profiling of the whole body and organs. We applied CUBIC-cancer analysis to 13 mouse models using nine cancer cell lines and spatiotemporal quantification of metastatic cancer progression at single-cell resolution. CUBIC-cancer analysis suggests that the epithelial-mesenchymal transition promotes not only extravasation but also cell survival at metastatic sites. CUBIC-cancer analysis is also applicable to pharmacotherapeutic profiling of anti-tumor drugs. CUBIC-cancer analysis is compatible with in vivo bioluminescence imaging and 2D histology. We suggest that a scalable analytical pipeline with these three modalities may contribute to addressing currently incurable metastatic diseases.

Keywords: 3D cancer atlas; CUBIC-cancer analysis; cancer metastasis; epithelial-mesenchymal transition; pharmacotherapeutic profiling; tissue clearing; tumor microenvironment; whole-body profiling.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Epithelial-Mesenchymal Transition
  • Female
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Neoplasm Metastasis
  • Neoplasms, Experimental / diagnostic imaging*
  • Neoplasms, Experimental / pathology
  • Optical Imaging / methods*
  • Single-Cell Analysis / methods*
  • Tumor Microenvironment
  • Whole Body Imaging / methods*