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Health, Science & Tech

Pitt Lands Grant To Study How Cancer Spreads To Bones

Why do certain cancers spread in bones?

The National Cancer Institute has awarded $2 million over five years to the University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine to answer that question.

Researchers will look for ways to repress X-box binding proteins (XBP1s), a molecule that regulates the production of other inflammatory proteins that boost tumor cell growth, in hopes of treating multiple myeloma bone disease.

Multiple myeloma is a cancer of plasma cells that starts in bone marrow and eats away at the bone, and according to lead researcher Hongjiao Ouyang, the lesions rarely heal with the available treatments.

“Plasma cells can accumulate in the bone marrow where they can crowd out the healthy blood cells, therefore interfering with the normal immune system,” she said.

According to Ouyang, individuals with multiple myeloma, as well as those with breast or prostate cancer, produce more XBP1s than those without the disease. By halting the creation of these proteins, Ouyang said tumor growth should slow, if not stop all together.

“It can kill the tumor cells themselves,” she said, “as well as disrupt the whole microenvironment in support of tumor growth.”