Tumor stromal topography promotes chemoresistance in migrating breast cancer cell clusters

Chia Yi Su, Alex Wu, Zhipeng Dong, Chris P. Miller, Allister Suarez, Andrew J. Ewald, Eun Hyun Ahn, Deok Ho Kim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Multicellular clustering provides cancer cells with survival advantages and facilitates metastasis. At the tumor migration front, cancer cell clusters are surrounded by an aligned stromal topography. It remains unknown whether aligned stromal topography regulates the resistance of migrating cancer cell clusters to therapeutics. Using a hybrid nanopatterned model to characterize breast cancer cell clusters at the migration front with aligned stromal topography, we demonstrate that topography-induced migrating cancer cell clusters exhibit upregulated cytochrome P450 family 1 (CYP1) drug metabolism and downregulated glycolysis gene signatures, which correlates with unfavorable prognosis. Screening on approved oncology drugs shows that cancer cell clusters on aligned stromal topography are more resistant to diverse chemotherapeutics. Full-dose drug testings further indicate that topography induces drug resistance of hormone receptor-positive breast cancer cell clusters to doxorubicin and tamoxifen and triple-negative breast cancer cell clusters to doxorubicin by activating the aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR)/CYP1 pathways. Inhibiting the AhR/CYP1 pathway restores reactive oxygen species-mediated drug sensitivity to migrating cancer cell clusters, suggesting a plausible therapeutic direction for preventing metastatic recurrence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number122128
StatePublished - Jul 2023


  • Aligned extracellular matrix topography
  • Aryl hydrocarbon receptor
  • Breast cancer
  • Cancer cell cluster
  • Cytochrome P450
  • Drug resistance
  • Reactive oxygen species

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Ceramics and Composites
  • Bioengineering
  • Biophysics
  • Biomaterials


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