Cancer is a leading cause of death in the US, and tumor cell metastasis and secondary tumor formation are key factors in the malignancy and prognosis of the disease. The regulation of cell motility plays an important role in the migration and invasion of cancer cells into surrounding tissues. The primary modes of increased motility in cancerous tissues may include collective migration of a group of epithelial cells during tumor growth and single cell migration of mesenchymal cells after detachment from the primary tumor site [1]. In epithelial cancers, metastasizing cells lose their cell-cell adhesions, detach from the tumor mass, begin expressing mesenchymal markers, and become highly motile and invasive, a process known as epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT) (Fig. 1) [2]. Although the cellular and biochemical signaling mechanisms underlying EMT have been studied extensively, there is limited information about the biomechanical mechanisms of EMT. In particular, it is not known how changes in cell mechanics (cell stiffness, cell-cell adhesion strength, traction forces) influence the detachment, migration and invasion processes that occur during metastasis.

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