Cancer is one of the leading causes of death worldwide. Despite medical progress in the treatment of the primary tumor, most patients suffer and die from metastases at distant locations, such as bone. In contrast to most soft tissue metastases, bone metastases frequently lead to fractures, pain and a poor life quality. Once established, bone metastases represent a point of no return and are rarely curable. They are even also regarded as a new source for systemic relapse. A better mechanistic understanding of this critical step of tumor progression is essential to target bone metastases, independent of the type of primary tumor.
The key steps of bone metastasis, including the initial colonization of bone by tumor cells and the early interaction with bone cells are poorly understood.
Thus, the fundamental questions of our consortium are:
- What makes the bone microenvironment attractive for circulating tumor cells?
- How do certain tumors home to bone?
- Which signals are essential for bone colonization and interaction, and can these be targeted?
- How do cells of the bone microenvironment respond to disseminated tumor cells?
- Which signals control tumor cell survival and dormancy in the bone microenvironment?
To obtain mechanistic insights into these questions, the consortium focusses on breast and prostate cancer, reflecting the most common malignancies of women and men with a high propensity for bone metastases. In addition, we will include myeloma bone disease as a prototypical malignant bone microenvironment disease to gain essential lateral insights into osteolytic bone lesions, which are a hallmark of myeloma. The µbone SPP will tackle the knowledge gap on bone metastases and reveal innovative mechanistic concepts of bone-tumor interactions (as a starting point) for subsequent studies to prevent or cure bone metastases.