Cancer research: preventing metastasis to the bone marrow

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Cancer research: preventing metastasis to the bone marrow
Cancer research: preventing metastasis to the bone marrow

Prevented metastasis to bone marrow

Researchers have tracked down a messenger substance that triggers the migration of degenerated cells into the bone marrow in various types of cancer. In mice with cancer, the researchers were able to block this molecule with a drug and thus prevent metastasis there.

The cytokine RANKL, which is produced in large quantities in the bone marrow, plays a crucial role in bone breakdown and the regulation of cell growth in the mammary gland. It also interacts with the RANKL receptor on breast, prostate and skin cancer cells, stimulating them to migrate to the bone marrow where they form secondary tumors.

When the scientists working with Josef Penninger from the Institute of Molecular Biotechnology in Vienna administered the active ingredient osteoprotegerin, which inhibits RANKL, to mice with skin cancer, the animals developed fewer tumors in the bone marrow and were also spared the paralysis that occurs in their untreated conspecifics caused by cancer cells migrating into the spinal cord. The formation of metastases in other organs, however, remained unaffected.

Secondary tumors claim more lives than the original cancerous tumors, and the bone marrow is considered a particularly "fertile" new home for cancer cells, which lead to particularly painful tumors there. Osteoprotegerin is already being tested in clinical studies. The researchers hope that the active substance can not only prevent metastasis, but also curb the development of cancer in the bone marrow.

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