Preserving Bones

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Science  08 Nov 2013:
Vol. 342, Issue 6159, pp. 671
DOI: 10.1126/science.342.6159.671-c

The most common site of metastatic disease in women with advanced breast cancer is bone. These lesions are painful and can be debilitating. Damage occurs when metastatic tumor cells recruit pre-osteoclast cells to the bone and then induce their differentiation into mature bone-degrading cells, which results in the release of proteins from the bone matrix that promote tumor cell growth. In a study exploring the molecules controlling osteoclast differentiation in the cancer setting, Ell et al. have identified miRNAs (microRNAs are small noncoding RNAs that regulate gene expression) whose levels were consistently down- or up-regulated in differentiating osteoclasts. Treatment in a mouse model of metastatic breast cancer with two of the down-regulated miRNAs (miR-141 and miR-219) suppressed bone metastases, suggesting that these miRNAs may have therapeutic utility. The up-regulated miRNAs proved interesting for a different reason: Two of them (miR-16 and miR-378) were detected in the blood of tumor-bearing mice and correlated with metastatic burden, suggesting that they may be useful biomarkers of bone metastases. A preliminary assessment of blood samples from breast cancer patients supported this idea.

Cancer Cell 24, 542 (2013).

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