Invadopodia (a.k.a. “cellular feet”) are transient actin-based protrusions on invading cancer cells that generate forces to displace extracellular matrices (ECM) and induce their focal degradation by the localized proteolytic activity of proteases. Cancer cells use invadopodia to displace, degrade, and invade ECM structures. Invadopodia are the transformed version of podosomes formed on normal motile cells such as macrophages, lymphocytes, dendritic cells, osteoclasts, endothelial cells, and smooth muscle cells. Invadopodia drive the invasion of cancer cells into the surrounding stroma, their intravasation into the vasculature as well as extravasation toward distant metastatic sites, leading to invasive tumor growth and distant metastasis (Figure 1).

Figure 1. The role of invadopodia in the multistep metastatic process of invasive cancer cells


The process through which cancer cells use their invadopodia to invade the surrounding tissues is amazingly similar to an octopus using its legs to explore the surroundings and squeeze through a small hole. The same “escape” mechanism is utilized in biology at both the single-cell level and the whole organism (Movie).


Designed by Justin V. Tsai in 2021

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