Parathyroid hormone-related protein (PTHrP) was discovered as the tumor product causing the humoral hypercalcemia of malignancy. Its structural similarity to the hormone, PTH, with 8 of the first 13 amino acids identical, was sufficient to explain the sharing by PTHrP and PTH of a common receptor, PTH1R, although the remainder of the sequences are unique. PTHrP has important roles in development of several organs, including breast and bone, and functions as a paracrine factor postnatally in these and other tissues. In addition to its hormonal role in cancer, PTHrP is produced by two thirds of primary breast cancers and 90% of bone metastases from breast cancer, leading to the concept that its production in bone by breast cancer cells promotes bone resorption, thus favoring tumor establishment and expansion, and an exit from tumor dormancy in bone through downregulation of leukemia inducing factor receptor (LIFR). Cancer production of PTHrP is increased by bone-derived growth factors, with particular attention paid to TGFβ, as well as by promoter-driven transcriptional effects, such as the hedgehog signaling factor, GLI2, and microenvironment effects including changes in underlying stiffness of substrates for cells. Although interest has been focused on PTHrP-induced bone resorption in bone metastasis, a mechanistically separate, protective effect against tumor progression has been proposed. Although there is conflicting mouse data, there are clinical studies suggesting that increased production of PTHrP by breast cancers confers upon them a less invasive phenotype, an effect distinct from the bone resorption-stimulating action that favors bone metastasis.
Keywords: Bone metastasis; Breast cancer; Microenvironment; PTHrP; TGFβ; Tumor dormancy.
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