Ellen Haugsten's project group: Cancer cell migration, invasion and metastasis

Ellen M. HaugstenProject group leader
Ellen M. Haugsten
Project group leader

Metastasis is the leading cause of cancer deaths. In the process of metastasis, cancer cells spread from the primary tumor to the surrounding tissue and to distant organs. One important trait of metastasizing cancer cells, is their ability to migrate and invade nearby and distant tissue. Our research goal is to gain better insight into the processes of metastasis with special focus on cell migration and invasion.

Rhabdomyosarcoma is a rare childhood cancer (approximately 5 new cases each year in Norway) originating in soft tissues of mesenchymal origin. The survival rate for rhabdomyosarcoma patients has increased in recent years. However, as for many cancers, the survival rates for children with metastatic rhabdomyosarcoma is still poor. We want to identify factors involved in metastatic rhabdomyosarcoma.

Another important feature of cancer metastasis is the ability of cancer cells in the primary tumor to secrete factors reaching distinct organs. These factors are thought to aid cancer cells homing in the distant organs by priming a metastatic niche before the cancer cells have reached the site. The project group is also part of a project aiming to identify such factors.

To study cancer cell migration and invasion, we use several assays such as scratch/wound assay, 2D cell migration, transwell assays and inverted invasion assays. We are also developing tools, together with Børge Holme (SINTEF), to automatically track migrating cells. We will combine these methods with drug screening and CRISPR knockout screens.

U2OS cells tracked with our automatic tracking tool (download video file)


We greatly acknowledge the financial support by Barnekreftforeningen.
Interview with Barnekreftforeningen