Washington: A new University of Michigan study has found that prostate and breast cancer usually recur in the bone.
And now, researchers believe they know why. Prostate cancer cells specifically target and eventually overrun the bone marrow niche, a specialized area for hematopoietic stem cells, which make red and white blood cells, said Russell Taichman, professor at the U-M School of Dentistry and senior author of the study.
Once in the niche, the cancer cells stay dormant and when they become active again years later, that`s when tumors recur in the bone.
Taichman and a team of researchers looked in the bone marrow and found cancer cells and hematopoietic stem cells next to one another competing for the same place. The finding is important because it demonstrates that the bone marrow niche plays a central role in bone metastasis.
Drugs could be developed to keep the types of cancers that likely recur in the bone from returning, Taichman said.
Cancer cells act a lot like stem cells in that they must reproduce, so the U-M research group hypothesized that prostate cancer cells might travel to the niche during metastasis. One of the jobs of the niche is to keep hematopoietic stem cells from proliferating---which may be the case for cancer cells, as well, the researchers found.
The study, ‘Prostate Cancer Metastases Target the Hematopoietic Stem Cell Niche to Establish Footholds in Marrow,’ appears online in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.