Paul Curtin, Helen Youm, Erdjan Salih
One of the major limitations of studying cancer-bone metastasis has been the lack of an appropriate ex-vivo model which can be used under defined conditions that simulates closely the in vivo live bone microenvironment in response to cancer-bone interactions. We have developed and utilized a three-dimensional (3D) cancer-bone metastasis model using free-floating live mouse calvarial bone organs in the presence of cancer cells in a roller tube system. In such co-cultures under hypoxia and a specifically defined bone remodeling stage, viz., resorption system, cancer cells showed a remarkable affinity and specificity for the “endosteal side” of the bone where they colonize and proliferate. This was concurrent with differentiation of resident stem/progenitor cells to osteoclasts and bone resorption. In contrast, under bone formation conditions this model revealed different pathophysiology where the breast cancer cells continued to induce osteoclastic bone resorption whereas prostate cancer cells led to osteoblastic bone formation. The current 3D model was used to demonstrate its application to studies involving chemical and biochemical perturbations in the absence and presence of cancer cells and cellular responses. We describe proof-of-principle with examples of the broad versatility and multi-faceted application of this model that adds another dimension to the ongoing studies in the cancer-bone metastasis arena.