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J Bone Miner Res. 2007 Jan;22(1):37-44.

TGF-beta promotes the establishment of renal cell carcinoma bone metastasis.

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Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD 21287, USA.


Bone metastases develop in approximately 30% of patients with RCC, and the mechanisms responsible for this phenomenon are unknown. We found that TGF-beta1 stimulation of RCC bone metastasis cells promotes tumor growth and bone destruction possibly by stimulating paracrine interactions between tumor cells and the bone.


Bone metastasis is a frequent complication and causes marked morbidity in patients with renal cell carcinoma (RCC). Surprisingly, the specific mechanisms of RCC interaction with bone have been scarcely studied despite the inability to prevent or effectively treat bone metastasis. Bone is a reservoir for various growth factors including the pleiotropic cytokine TGF-beta1. TGF-beta1 has been shown to have tumor-supportive effects on advanced cancers and evidence suggests its involvement in promoting the development of breast cancer bone metastasis. Here, we studied the potential role of TGF-beta1 in the growth of RCC bone metastasis (RBM).


To inhibit TGF-beta1 signaling, RBM cells stably expressing a dominant-negative (DN) TGF-betaRII cDNA were generated. The in vivo effect of TGF-beta1 on RBM tumor growth and osteolysis was determined by histological and radiographic analysis, respectively, of athymic nude mice after intratibial injection of parental, empty vector, or DN RBM cells. The in vitro effect of TGF-beta1 on RBM cell growth was determined after TGF-beta1 treatment by MTT assay.


TGF-beta1 and the TGF-beta receptors I and II (TGF-betaRI/II) were consistently expressed in both RBM tissues and cell lines. Inhibition of TGF-beta1 signaling in RBM cells significantly reduced tumor establishment and osteolysis observed in vivo after injection into the murine tibia, although no effect on tumor establishment was observed after injection of RBM cells subcutaneously or into the renal subcapsule. Treatment of five RBM cell lines with TGF-beta1 in vitro either had no effect (2/5) or resulted in a significant inhibition (3/5) of cell growth, suggesting that TGF-beta1 may promote RBM tumor growth indirectly in vivo.


TGF-beta1 stimulation of RBM cells plays a role in promoting tumor growth and subsequent osteolysis in vivo, likely through the initiation of tumor-promoting paracrine interactions between tumor cells and the bone microenvironment. These data suggest that inhibition of TGF-beta1 signaling may be useful in the treatment of RBM.

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