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Princeton scientists discover mechanism involved in breast cancer's spread to bone
Date:2/3/2011

old bone. Then another group of bone cells called osteoblasts deposit a new layer of bone matrix to rebuild the bone tissue. Working just like cellular excavators and paving machines, the bone-scrubbing osteoclasts and bone-building osteoblasts work in sync every day to renew the bone and maintain its strength. When these cells' activity gets out of balance, bone diseases can result.

While tumor cells lack the specialized tools that osteoclasts have to break down the bone, they are able to use the destructive Jagged1 molecule to disrupt the balanced activity of bone renewal, forcing the osteoclasts and osteoblasts to behave in a way that allows the tumor cells to invade the bone, Kang explained.

For example, by activating Notch signaling in osteoclasts, Jagged1 makes osteoclasts mature more quickly from their precursor cells, known as monocytes. A massive accumulation of these bone-scouring osteoclasts becomes the front line of the invasive force of tumor cells. That speeds up the breakdown of bone tissue and clears the way for tumor cells to expand into a malignant mass in the bone.

"Meanwhile, Jagged1 instructs the osteoblasts to secrete elevated levels of Interleukin-6, a tumor growth factor, so the cancer grows even faster," Kang said. "It's a one-two punch."

Creating further damage, the breakdown of the bone matrix releases a large quantity of another protein called TGF-beta, another signaling molecule that is embedded in the bone matrix during the bone-building process. In their earlier work published in 2009, Kang and colleagues showed that the TGF-beta protein derived from bones fuels the malignant growth of bone metastasis.

In the current study, some experiments conducted by Sethi established a surprising new link between TGF-beta and the Jagged1 molecule in bone metastasis.

"When tumor cells use the hijacked osteoclasts to break down the bone and release TGF-beta, it signals back to tumor cells to
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Contact: Emily Aronson
earonson@princeton.edu
609-258-5733
Princeton University
Source:Eurekalert  

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