An international research team has identified what may be a pivotal molecule in the ability of tumours to metastasize - or spread - into bone. Metastases are responsible for more cancer deaths than primary tumours, and bone is a particularly fertile site into which other cancers often spread. Researchers have long hypothesized that bone tissue might manufacture certain molecules that entice cancer cells to lodge there.
In the 30 Mar 06 issue of Nature (Vol. 440, No. 7084, pp. 692-696), Josef Penninger and his colleagues present evidence that a cytokine protein called RANKL, which is produced at high levels in bone marrow, acts through the RANK receptor on breast, prostate and skin cancer cells and triggers their migration.
In a mouse model of melanoma, the team shows that blocking the action of RANKL prevents the cancer from metastasizing to the bones but not other organs, and protects the animals from paralysis and death. Drugs that inhibit RANKL or its receptor might also block human metastases in bone, they suggest.
Josef Penninger (Austrian Academy of Sciences, Vienna, Austria)
(C) Nature press release.
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