The Seeds and the Soil: Roles of Tumor Heterogeneity and the Tumor Microenvironment in Cancer Metastasis

A breast cancer tumor and its surrounding tissue, as seen under a microscope. The tumor is a round mass of blue-green cells, dotted with tiny red circles, and surrounded by bright green fibers.

A breast cancer tumor and the surrounding (non-cancerous) tissue, known as the microenvironment. The tumor cells are shown in blue-green, along with macrophages in red, and collagen fibers in bright green. (By Joseph Szulczewski, David Inman, Kevin Eliceiri, and Patricia Keely. National Cancer Institute \ Carbone Cancer Center at the Univ. of Wisconsin. Public domain.)


MIT Course Number


As Taught In

Fall 2020



Cite This Course

Course Description

Course Features

Course Description

Metastatic disease is responsible for the vast majority of deaths associated with cancer, yet our understanding of how metastases arise is still developing. In this course, we will introduce various concepts and models that have been proposed to explain how cancer cells disseminate from a primary tumor to distant anatomical sites. We’ll learn about the critical factors that influence cancer metastasis frontiers through analysis and discussion of relevant primary research articles, with an emphasis on mechanisms of metastasis that can be applied across different cancer types. Students will gain a broad understanding of the field of cancer metastasis, including state-of-the-art techniques that are being used to address pressing questions in the field.

This course is one of many Advanced Undergraduate Seminars offered by the Biology Department at MIT. These seminars are tailored for students with an interest in using primary research literature to discuss and learn about current biological research in a highly interactive setting. Many instructors of the Advanced Undergraduate Seminars are postdoctoral scientists with a strong interest in teaching.

Related Content

Arthur Lambert, and Yun Zhang. 7.342 The Seeds and the Soil: Roles of Tumor Heterogeneity and the Tumor Microenvironment in Cancer Metastasis. Fall 2020. Massachusetts Institute of Technology: MIT OpenCourseWare, License: Creative Commons BY-NC-SA.

For more information about using these materials and the Creative Commons license, see our Terms of Use.