The importance of evaluating physical cues in cancer research is gradually being realized. Assessment of cancer cell physical appearance, or phenotype, may provide information on changes in cellular behavior, including migratory or communicative changes. These characteristics are intrinsically different between malignant and non-malignant cells and change in response to therapy or in the progression of the disease. Here, we report that pancreatic cancer cell phenotype was altered in response to a physical method for cancer therapy, a non-invasive radiofrequency (RF) treatment, which is currently being developed for human trials. We provide a battery of tests to explore these phenotype characteristics. Our data show that cell topography, morphology, motility, adhesion and division change as a result of the treatment. These may have consequences for tissue architecture, for diffusion of anti-cancer therapeutics and cancer cell susceptibility within the tumor. Clear phenotypical differences were observed between cancerous and normal cells in both their untreated states and in their response to RF therapy. We also report, for the first time, a transfer of microsized particles through tunneling nanotubes, which were produced by cancer cells in response to RF therapy. Additionally, we provide evidence that various sub-populations of cancer cells heterogeneously respond to RF treatment.
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