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Cancer Microenviron. 2011 Dec;4(3):221-35. doi: 10.1007/s12307-011-0083-6. Epub 2011 Aug 9.

Homing of cancer cells to the bone.

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Department of Biologics and Materials Sciences, University of Michigan School of Dentistry, Ann Arbor, MI, 48109, USA.


A variety of tumor cells preferentially home to the bone. The homing of cancer cells to the bone represents a multi-step process that involves malignant progression of the tumor, invasion of the tumor through the extracellular matrix and the blood vessels and settling of the tumor cells in the bone. Gaining a greater understanding as to the mechanisms used by cancer cells in these processes will facilitate the design of drugs which could specifically target the homing process. In this review we will discuss the properties of tumor cells and the bone microenvironment which promote homing of a cancer cell to the bone. We will highlight the different steps and the molecular pathways involved when a cancer cell metastasize to the bone. Since bone is the major home for hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs), we will also highlight the similarities between the homing of cancer and HSC to the bone. Finally we will conclude with therapeutic and early detection strategies which can prevent homing of a cancer cell to the bone.

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