Capturing the origins of breast cancer metastasis in bones

The Bioengineering in Regeneration and Cancer research group from the Biogipuzkoa Health Research Institute, directed by Ikerbasque researcher Doctor Amaia Cipitria, has published a paper in the prestigious journal Science Advances, which analyses how breast cancer metastasis develops in bones. Additionally, due to its importance and novelty, this work will be featured on the cover of said journal.

Breast cancer often metastasises to bone and will then usually result in bone-destroying lesions. Although structural and biophysical changes are thought to influence the progression of the metastasis, they have rarely been studied. In order to examine these changes, this study developed a mouse model of early bone metastasis and multimodal imaging. In this way, the aim was to quantify the localisation of cancer cells, dynamic bone (re)modelling and the onset of metastasis. Through the use of advanced microscopy, they were able to localise the cancerous cells in intact bones, both individually and in small groups, and they analysed the size and distribution of the cancerous cells in the bone. In addition, they detected early bone lesions and, in bones where there were no detectable lesions, they found that the bones showed altered (re)modelling. Using a new image-analysis tool, they followed the growth of the early lesions over time. In this way, they demonstrated that the cancerous cells lodge in all bone compartments, while early metastatic bone lesions are only detected in the metaphysis, a region of high (re)modelling. The study suggests that higher rates of bone (re)modelling favour the formation of lesions during early metastasis.

In the words of the researchers: “We are very excited to be able to share some of the images that we were able to capture of the spread of breast cancer cells to bone at very early stages thanks to the new advanced imaging techniques (3D light sheet fluorescence microscopy and computed microtomography), and a new image analysis tool for the quantification of the growth of early bone lesions.” They add, “This lays the groundwork for a new European project, which will be launched in our group soon, on breast cancer latency and the onset of bone metastasis.”

More information: DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.adj0975