How cancer cells hibernate

Over the next six years, scientists from all over Germany will work together to detect bone metastases early after surviving breast or prostate cancer and to prevent their development. A total of Euro 7.8 million will be available for the nationwide DFG priority program 2084 "μBONE – Colonization and Interactions of Tumor Cells within the Bone Microenvironment". Researchers from the Berlin-Brandenburg Center for Regenerative Therapies (BCRT) of the Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin are involved in this project.

Every eighth woman suffers from breast cancer in the course of her life, every eighth man from prostate cancer. The two carcinomas are the two most common types of cancer. "Unfortunately, it is often clinical routine for us to see patients with breast cancer and patients with prostate cancer, whose tumor disease was already defeated several years ago, but in which the disease returns in the form of bone metastases," says Professor Dr. Lorenz Hofbauer. He is a bone specialist at the University Hospital Carl Gustav Carus Dresden and coordinator of the μBONE consortium. The results are broken bones, severe pain and a reduced quality of life. "Particularly breast cancer and prostate cancer in advanced stages of the disease are prone to settle in the bones, up to 80 percent." The cancer cells survive in the bone marrow in the human body for years, a kind of "hibernation", and after awakening destroy the bone. The researchers of the consortium want to understand the processes that lead to this development.

"The exact mechanisms and the individual stages of development of the bone and tumor cells leading to clinically recognizable bone metastasis are poorly understood, but that is a prerequisite for early diagnosis and improved prevention and treatment," says Professor Dr. Kay Raum. In his subproject, he explores with Dr. Regina Puts whether mechanical stimuli of bone cells can activate intrinsic protective mechanisms against tumor invasion. "Low-intensity ultrasound waves are able to activate the same intracellular signaling cascades as the currently used drugs," explains Dr. Kay Raum. However, the drugs have a number of undesirable side effects when used for long periods. By combining those drugs with mechanical stimulation, the researchers expect a reduction in the necessary dose of medication and thus substantially diminished side effects.


Bone Lab in Dresden

Contact at BCRT:

Prof. Dr. Kay Raum
Phone: 030 450 539 503