A novel orthotopic model of breast cancer metastasis to bone

Clin Exp Metastasis. 1999 Mar;17(2):163-70. doi: 10.1023/a:1006689719505.


Breast cancer affects approximately one woman in twelve and kills more women than any other cancer. If detected early, patients have a five year survival rate of 66%, but once metastatic disease has developed, there is no effective treatment. About 70% of patients with metastatic disease have bone involvement, while lungs and liver are the other common targets. Bone metastases cause severe pain, pathological fractures and hypercalcaemia and thus are a significant clinical problem. The development of new therapies for metastatic breast carcinoma depends on a better understanding of the mechanism of homing of the tumour cells to bone, liver and lungs and the factors required for their growth in these organs. Research on mechanisms of breast cancer metastasis, particularly to bone, has relied on in vitro studies or on tumour models in which the inoculation route is designed to promote delivery of tumour cells to a specific organ. Metastases in bone are achieved by inoculation into the right ventricle of the heart. To our knowledge there has been no report of a model of metastatic spread from the mammary gland to distant sites which reliably includes bone. In this paper, we describe our recent development of a novel murine model of metastatic breast carcinoma. The new model is unique in that the pattern of metastatic spread closely resembles that observed in human breast cancer. In particular, these murine breast tumours metastasise to bone from the primary breast site and cause hypercalcaemia, characteristics not normally found in murine tumours, but common in human disease. Furthermore, in a preliminary characterisation of this model, we show that secretion of parathyroid hormone-related protein, a role for which has been implicated in breast cancer spread to bone, correlates with metastasis to bone. This model therefore provides an excellent experimental system in which to investigate the factors that control metastatic spread of breast cancer to specific sites, particularly bone. The special advantage of this system is that it involves the whole metastasis process, beginning from the primary site. Existing models consider mechanisms that pertain to growth of tumour once the site has been reached. An understanding of the regulation of these factors by potential therapeutic agents could lead to improvement in therapies designed to combat metastatic disease. For the first time, this development will allow exploration of the molecular basis of site-specific metastasis of breast cancer to bone in a clinically relevant model.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bone Neoplasms / pathology
  • Bone Neoplasms / secondary*
  • Calcium / blood
  • Female
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Infusions, Intravenous
  • Keratins / metabolism
  • Mammary Neoplasms, Experimental / pathology*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Parathyroid Hormone-Related Protein
  • Proteins / analysis
  • Proteins / genetics*
  • Radioimmunoassay
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured


  • Parathyroid Hormone-Related Protein
  • Proteins
  • Keratins
  • Calcium