Breast Cancer Cells on the Move Being Tracked
In particular, they examined the role of NOG, a gene important to proper bone development. Previously, NOG was associated with bone metastasis in prostate cancer, but its specific role in breast cancer to bone metastasis remained unknown.
Gomis and colleagues showed that once breast cancer cells are on the move NOG enables them to specifically invade the bone and establish a tumor. It does this in two ways. First, NOG escalates bone degeneration by increasing the number of mature osteoclasts (bone cells that break down bone), essentially creating a spot in the bone for the metastatic breast cancer cells to take up residence. Second, NOG keeps the metastatic breast cancer cells in a stem-cell-like state, which enables them to propagate and form a new tumor in the bone environment.
Gomis explains that the reason NOG expression leads to an increased potential for breast cancer to bone metastasis is because it not only affects features inherent to aggressive cancer cells (such as the ability to establish a new tumor) but also influences properties of the bone environment (such as osteoclast degeneration of bone).