Approximately 90 percent of patients with advanced cancer develop skeletal metastasis. This occurrence results in a substantial reduction in their quality of life and poor prognosis because of a tumor that would generally progress slowly if confined to the organ of origin.
Cancer cells escaping the primary tumor will migrate throughout the body using blood and lymphatic circulation. According to a widely accepted paradigm, specific mechanisms are responsible for directing them to the skeleton. Cancer cells adhere to the bone marrow blood vessel wall through recognition of specific adhesion molecules and extravasate. They are drawn into the bone marrow parenchyma due to their compatibility with specific resident factors. However, the small population of cancer cells that are able to accomplish this will eventually disappear or remain as dormant micrometastases unless bone factors support their growth and survival in the new microenvironment. Ongoing projects in our lab aim to:
1. Understand the molecular and functional interactions underpinning the metastatic process, and
2. Identify molecular targets for effective therapies to counteract the dissemination and growth of cancer cells.