Scientists from QUT's Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation are using a 3-D model to get deeper insights into how prostate cancer spread to the bones.
Shirly Sieh, a PhD student at IHBI, is studying the way cancer cells escape from the prostate through the bloodstream to form tumour colonies, most often in the spine and long bones.
"It is an innovative study which uses a tissue engineering platform technology developed by IHBI's Professor Dietmar W. Hutmacher in order to investigate the interaction between bones and cancer cells," said Sieh.
"Tissue-engineered bone provides the 3D architecture for the cancer cells which more closely resemble bone metastasis instead of growing the cancer cells and bone cells on a flat Petrie dish.
"I am growing prostate cancer cells on the tissue-engineered bone to observe the interactions between the cells and the surrounding tissue so it is a way of mimicking the cancer cells invading the bone environment," she added.
"With this 3D method we can see if and how the cancer cells 'set up home' in the bone cells.
"We want to study how the cancer cells degrade the matrix, or the mix of proteins and growth factors produced by these cells, and remodel the environment to suit the cancer cells to grow a tumour," she added.
Sieh along with another PhD student Amy Lubik are also studying the effect the cancer cells in the bone have on male hormone production, particularly on the hormone, androgen.
"People with advanced cancer who have had prostate removal surgery should have low levels of androgen and the cancer cells should be suppressed. However, sometimes the cancer cells do recur," she said.
"We think it might have something to do with the fact that the cancer cells are very sensitive to androgen and even low levels of androgen in the body could promote the growth of these cancer cells," she added.