Publication: Relative Stiffness Measurements of Tumour Tissues by Shear Rheology

Thomas R. Cox, May 2017

Our new protocol on shear rheology of tumour tissues to measure tumour stiffness has just been published in bio-protocol

Bioprotocol in vivo rheology

Bio-protocol (ISSN: 2331-8325) is a peer-viewed e-journal established in 2011 by a group of Stanford researchers. Their mission is to make life science research more efficient and reproducible by curating and hosting high quality, open access, life science protocols.

In the life science research community, reproducing someone else’s experiment has never been easy. This is because a life science experiment often contains many details and tricks. Bio-protocol aims to publish detailed life science protocols with a strong emphasis on reproducibility, a critical issue that is challenging the research community today.

Using rheology in cancer

During the progression of diseases such as cancer and fibrosis, the physical properties (stiffness) of tissues change. These changes can have dramatic effects on the cells that live within the tissue. Understanding how tissue stiffness is altered and affects the behaviour of cells is important to developing better treatments for these diseases.

The bulk mechanical properties (stiffness) of  tumour tissues can be examined using a technique called shear rheology. Rheology is the study of how materials deform when forces are applied to them. We can therefore use this approach to understand how the stiffness of tumour tissues change over time, what cells are responsible for driving these changes, and dissect the importance of these changes during disease progression.


The microenvironment of solid tumours is a critical contributor to the progression of tumours and offers a promising target for therapeutic intervention. The properties of the tumour microenvironment vary significantly from that of the original tissue in both biochemistry and biomechanics. At present, the complex interplay between the biomechanical properties of the microenvironment and tumour cell phenotype are under intense investigation. The ability to measure the biomechanical properties of tumour samples from cancer models will increase our understanding of their importance in solid tumour biology. Here we report a simple method to measure the viscoelastic properties of tumour specimens using a controlled strain rotational rheometer.

Keywords: Shear rheology, Tissue stiffness, Matrix remodeling, Collagen cross-linking, Lysyl oxidase, Breast cancer


View the full free text on bio-protocol
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Madsen CD and Cox TR. Relative Stiffness Measurements of Tumour Tissues by Shear Rheology
Bio-protocol 7(9): e2265. (2017) | DOI: 10.21769/BioProtoc.2265