Electric Fields at Breast Cancer and Cancer Cell Collective Galvanotaxis

Kan Zhu, Nicholas R. Hum, Brian Reid, Qin Sun, Gabriela G. Loots, Min Zhao

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Cancer growth interferes with local ionic environments, membrane potentials, and transepithelial potentials, resulting in small electrical changes in the tumor microenvironment. Electrical fields (EFs) have significant effects on cancer cell migration (galvanotaxis/electrotaxis), however, their role as a regulator of cancer progression and metastasis is poorly understood. Here, we employed unique probe systems to characterize the electrical properties of cancer cells and their migratory ability under an EF. Subcutaneous tumors were established from a triple-negative murine breast cancer cell line (4T1), electric currents and potentials of tumors were measured using vibrating probe and glass microelectrodes, respectively. Steady outward and inward currents could be detected at different positions on the tumor surface and magnitudes of the electric currents on the tumor surface strongly correlated with tumor weights. Potential measurements also showed the non-homogeneous intratumor electric potentials. Cancer cell migration was then surveyed in the presence of EFs in vitro. Parental 4T1 cells and metastatic sublines in isolation showed random migration in EFs of physiological strength, whereas cells in monolayer migrated collectively to the anode. Our data contribute to an improved understanding of breast cancer metastasis, providing new evidence in support of an electrical mechanism that promotes this phenomenon.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number8712
JournalScientific reports
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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