Understanding bone tumours by watching them as they grow
Cancers that spread to bones are often difficult to treat, but finding out how tumour and bone cells live side by side may help to heal osteolytic lesions – tears created in bone tissue as a tumour grows inside. Intravital microscopy watches as this lesion, in mouse bone, widens over several days. From blue to green to red – consecutive overlapping pictures show the fringe of the hole eaten away by bone resorption – when bone cells are broken down. This bone tissue was actually grown in a lab under a mouse’s skin, with a thin surface ideal for peering through. Treating the lesion with a chemical called zoledronic acid slows the bone’s deterioration – just as it does in human patients – but doesn’t stop the cancer growing. Using biological models like this, scientists can now test combinations of drugs that preserve the bone, while targeting the cancer cells inside.
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