Mechanobiological Implications of Cancer Progression in Space

Hyondeog Kim, Yun Shin, Dong Hwee Kim

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


The human body is normally adapted to maintain homeostasis in a terrestrial environment. The novel conditions of a space environment introduce challenges that changes the cellular response to its surroundings. Such an alteration causes physical changes in the extracellular microenvironment, inducing the secretion of cytokines such as interleukin-6 (IL-6) and tumor growth factor-β (TGF-β) from cancer cells to enhance cancer malignancy. Cancer is one of the most prominent cell types to be affected by mechanical cues via active interaction with the tumor microenvironment. However, the mechanism by which cancer cells mechanotransduce in the space environment, as well as the influence of this process on human health, have not been fully elucidated. Due to the growing interest in space biology, this article reviews cancer cell responses to the representative conditions altered in space: microgravity, decompression, and irradiation. Interestingly, cytokine and gene expression that assist in tumor survival, invasive phenotypic transformation, and cancer cell proliferation are upregulated when exposed to both simulated and actual space conditions. The necessity of further research on space mechanobiology such as simulating more complex in vivo experiments or finding other mechanical cues that may be encountered during spaceflight are emphasized.

Original languageEnglish
Article number740009
JournalFrontiers in Cell and Developmental Biology
Publication statusPublished - 2021 Dec 8

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Authors thank members of the Applied Mechanobiology Group at the Korea University for thoughtful discussion regarding space mechanobiology. Special thanks goes to Seong-Beom Han for his professional revision of display items. This work was supported by KU-KIST Graduate School of Converging Science and Technology Program, National Research Foundation of Korea, and Ministry of Science and ICT.

Funding Information:
DK was supported by National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF-2019R1A2C2004437 and 2020R1A4A3079755) and the MSIT (Ministry of Science and ICT), Korea, under the ICT Creative Consilience program (IITP-2020-0-01819) supervised by the IITP (Institute for Information & communications Technology Planning & Evaluation).

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2021 Kim, Shin and Kim.


  • cancer Progression
  • cellular mechanoadaptation
  • mechanotransduction
  • microgravity
  • space mechanobiology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental Biology
  • Cell Biology


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