Prostate tumor cells can be lulled to sleep by a factor released by bone cells, according to a study published online this week in the Journal of Experimental Medicine (www.jem.org). Disease recurs in up to half of prostate cancer patients after treatment, often as a result of metastases that spread to distant organs.
Kounosuke Watabe and colleagues at Southern Illinois University School of Medicine now show that BMP7, a protein pumped out by cells that line the bone interior, signals tumor cells to enter a state of hibernation. But this state is reversible. In mice, withdrawal of BMP7 acts like an alarm clock, restarting tumor growth.
Prostate cancer patients bearing tumors that express BMPR2--BMP7's binding partner--show longer recurrence-free survival than those whose tumors lack BMPR2.
These findings suggest that therapies aimed at maintaining or mimicking BMP7 expression may help prevent prostate tumor recurrence.
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Kobayashi, A., et al. 2011. J. Exp. Med. doi:10.1084/jem.20110840