Osteomimicry: how tumor cells try to deceive the bone

Front Biosci (Schol Ed). 2010 Jun 1;2:907-15. doi: 10.2741/s110.


Bone metastases are complications of multiple myeloma and solid tumors, including breast and prostate carcinomas. Several reports have demonstrated that the preference to metastasize to bone by tumor cells is not a casual but an addressed event, which relies on specific interactions among tumor cells, bone marrow microenvironment and bone cells. One of the features that gives tumor cells more chances to survive and proliferate into the bone tissue is osteomimicry, that is the ability to acquire a bone cell phenotype, especially osteoblast-like. As clearly demonstrated, prostate and breast cancer cells try to resemble osteoblasts by expressing bone matrix proteins, the specific marker alkaline phosphatase, and molecules regulating the osteoblast/osteoclast cross-talk. Based on this evidence it is crucial to dissect in more detail the molecular mechanisms underlying the osteomimetic properties of cancer cells and identify new therapeutic targets eventually leading to a better and prolonged life expectation for patients with bone.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alkaline Phosphatase / metabolism
  • Bone Matrix / metabolism
  • Bone Morphogenetic Proteins / metabolism
  • Bone Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Bone Neoplasms / pathology
  • Bone Neoplasms / secondary*
  • Breast Neoplasms
  • Core Binding Factor Alpha 1 Subunit / metabolism
  • Endothelin-1 / metabolism
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Models, Biological
  • Osteoblasts / metabolism
  • Osteoblasts / pathology
  • Osteolysis / etiology
  • Phenotype
  • Prostatic Neoplasms
  • Signal Transduction
  • Urokinase-Type Plasminogen Activator / metabolism
  • Wnt Proteins / metabolism
  • beta 2-Microglobulin / metabolism


  • Bone Morphogenetic Proteins
  • Core Binding Factor Alpha 1 Subunit
  • Endothelin-1
  • RUNX2 protein, human
  • Wnt Proteins
  • beta 2-Microglobulin
  • Alkaline Phosphatase
  • Urokinase-Type Plasminogen Activator