Prof Peter Croucher

Deputy Director – Garvan Institute
Research Theme Leader – Healthy Ageing
Head – Bone Biology Lab
Mrs Janice Gibson & the Ernest Heine Family Foundation Chair in Osteoporosis

Prof Peter Croucher

I am a bone biologist and cancer researcher, with a longstanding fascination for disorders of the skeleton, particularly osteoporosis and cancer-associated bone disease. I have a particular interest in the molecular mechanisms of bone disease, in how cancers spread to bone, and what controls dormanc

Biography

I am a bone biologist and cancer researcher, with a longstanding fascination for disorders of the skeleton, particularly osteoporosis and cancer-associated bone disease. I have a particular interest in the molecular mechanisms of bone disease, in how cancers spread to bone, and what controls dormancy (sleeping) and reactivation of cancer cells within bone. I am motivated by the clinical impacts that my research has already had, and by the potential for widespread future impacts on bone disease, cancer relapse and metastasis.

I head Garvan’s Bone Biology research lab. I also lead and co-lead a number of international research consortia, including ProMis (PROstate Cancer MetastasIS; co-funded by Movember and the Prostate Cancer Foundation) and the Wellcome Trust-funded Origins of Bone & Cartilage Disease program.

My postdoctoral training was at the University of Cambridge and the University of Sheffield. I relocated to the University of Oxford’s Institute of Musculoskeletal Sciences as a Senior Research Fellow in 2001, returning to the School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at the University of Sheffield in 2003 as Professor of Bone Biology. In 2009 I formed and led the new Department of Human Metabolism, and became the inaugural co-Director of the Mellanby Centre for Bone Research.

In 2011, I moved to Garvan, in Sydney, to lead its Division of Bone Biology and to take up the inaugural Mrs Janice Gibson & the Ernest Heine Family Foundation Chair in Osteoporosis. As of 2018, I lead Garvan’s Healthy Ageing research theme, which brings together a multidisciplinary group of over 150 researchers and clinician-scientists who study osteoporosis, cancer in bone, type 2 diabetes and disorders of metabolism, neurodegenerative diseases, other neurological conditions and hearing. I am also Deputy Director of Garvan, with responsibilities for whole-of-institute scientific affairs.

I am a bone biologist and cancer researcher, with a longstanding fascination for disorders of the skeleton, particularly osteoporosis and cancer-associated bone disease. I have a particular interest in the molecular mechanisms of bone disease, in how cancers spread to bone, and what controls dormancy (sleeping) and reactivation of cancer cells within bone. I am motivated by the clinical impacts that my research has already had, and by the potential for widespread future impacts on bone disease, cancer relapse and metastasis.

I head Garvan’s Bone Biology research lab. I also lead and co-lead a number of international research consortia, including ProMis (PROstate Cancer MetastasIS; co-funded by Movember and the Prostate Cancer Foundation) and the Wellcome Trust-funded Origins of Bone & Cartilage Disease program.

My postdoctoral training was at the University of Cambridge and the University of Sheffield. I relocated to the University of Oxford’s Institute of Musculoskeletal Sciences as a Senior Research Fellow in 2001, returning to the School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at the University of Sheffield in 2003 as Professor of Bone Biology. In 2009 I formed and led the new Department of Human Metabolism, and became the inaugural co-Director of the Mellanby Centre for Bone Research.

In 2011, I moved to Garvan, in Sydney, to lead its Division of Bone Biology and to take up the inaugural Mrs Janice Gibson & the Ernest Heine Family Foundation Chair in Osteoporosis. As of 2018, I lead Garvan’s Healthy Ageing research theme, which brings together a multidisciplinary group of over 150 researchers and clinician-scientists who study osteoporosis, cancer in bone, type 2 diabetes and disorders of metabolism, neurodegenerative diseases, other neurological conditions and hearing. I am also Deputy Director of Garvan, with responsibilities for whole-of-institute scientific affairs.

Awards and Honours

Honours and distinctions include:

1997–2003: Bennett Senior Research Fellowship, Leukaemia Research Fund, UK
2008–2010: Acceleron Fellowship, Acceleron Pharma, Boston, USA
2011–2016: Chairman, Cancer and Bone Society
2011–present: Mrs Janice Gibson & the Ernest Heine Family Foundation Chair in Osteoporosis
2018–2020: President, Australian and New Zealand Bone & Mineral Society

Education

My undergraduate studies were carried out at University College Cardiff, where I graduated with a BSc (Hons) in Zoology in 1987.

My PhD studies took place at the University of Wales. I worked in the laboratory of Professor Juliet Compston and was awarded my PhD in 1991.

Fundings

My team and I are currently supported by:

  • Mrs Janice Gibson and the Ernest Heine Family Foundation
  • National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC; Australia)
  • Cancer Council
  • Movember Foundation
  • Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia

In addition, previous support from the following has been critical in enabling us to progress our research program in the UK and Australia (funders are listed in alphabetical order):

  • Acceleron Pharma
  • Aka Aka Fund
  • Amgen
  • Arthritis and Rheumatism Council (UK)
  • Arthritis Research Campaign
  • AstraZeneca
  • Cancer Council
  • Cancer Research UK
  • European Union
  • ILEX Oncology Research, S.A
  • International Myeloma Foundation
  • Leukaemia Research Fund
  • Movember Foundation
  • Mrs Janice Gibson and the Ernest Heine Family Foundation
  • Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation
  • National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC; Australia))
  • National Institute for Health Research (UK)
  • Novartis Pharma AG
  • Procter & Gamble
  • ProMPT
  • Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia
  • Sandoz Pharmaceuticals Ltd
  • Scios
  • University of Sheffield – Roberts fund
  • University of Sheffield, Faculty of Medicine
  • Wellcome Trust
  • Wolfson Foundation
  • Yorkshire Cancer Research Campaign

Selected Publications

I have published a total of 153 research papers and reviews (h-index = 57, Google Scholar) that have been cited >10900 times (Google Scholar). The papers listed below (newest first) represent some of the lab’s most impactful contributions to our field.

1. Khoo WH, Ledergor G,…, Amit I, Phan TG, Croucher PI (2019) A niche-dependent myeloid transcriptome signature defines dormant myeloma cells. Blood 134:30-43.
DOI: 10.1182/blood.2018880930. Full text
Commentary: Myeloma sleeper agent in myeloid disguise
In this work, we defined a unique and clinically relevant transcriptome signature (pattern of gene expression) for dormant cancer cells, suggesting many new approaches to eradicating dormant cells.


2. Morris JA, Kemp JP,… Croucher PI, … Evans DM, Richards JB (2019). An atlas of human and murine genetic influences on osteoporosis. Nat Genet 51:258-266. DOI: 10.1038/s41588-018-0302-x. Full text
This pivotal study defined the landscape of genes associated with bone mass.

3. Kemp JP, Morris JA,… Croucher PI, … Richards JB, Evans DM. (2017) Identification of 153 new loci associated with heel bone mineral density and functional involvement of GPC6 in osteoporosis. Nat Genet 49:1468-75. DOI: 10.1038/ng.3949. Full text
A major analysis of UK Biobank and mouse datasets, identifying many new genes associated with bone mass.

4. McDonald MM, Reagan MR, … Croucher PI. (2017) Inhibiting the osteocyte specific protein sclerostin increases bone mass and fracture resistance in multiple myeloma. Blood 129:3452-64. DOI: 10.1182/blood-2017-03-773341. Full text
In this work, we showed that inhibiting sclerostin, an osteocyte specific gene, could prevent osteolytic disease in myeloma.

5. Croucher PI, McDonald MM, Martin TJ. (2016) Bone metastasis: the importance of the neighborhood. Nature Rev Cancer 16:16373-386. DOI: 10.1038/nrc.2016.44. Full text
This landmark review describes new concepts in cancer cell dormancy and the role of the environment in dormancy control.

6. Lawson MA, McDonald MM, … Croucher PI. (2015) Osteoclasts control re-activation of dormant myeloma cells by remodeling the endosteal niche. Nature Commun 6:8983. DOI: 10.1038/ncomms9983. Full text
Here, we reported the first longitudinal intravital imaging approach to study dormant cancer cells in the skeleton. We show that the cancer cells’ environment within bone is key to whether they ‘wake’.

7. Ottewell PD, Wang N, Brown HK, Reeves KJ, Fowles CA, Croucher PI, Eaton CL, Holen I. (2014) Zoledronic acid has differential antitumor activity in the pre- and postmenopausal bone microenvironment in vivo. Clin Cancer Res 20:2922-32. DOI: 10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-13-1246. Full text
In this work, we reported that ovariectomy switches on dormant breast cancer cells and causes metastasis.

8. Baud’huin M, Nicolas Solban N, … Croucher PI. (2012) A soluble bone morphogenetic protein type 1A receptor increases bone mass and bone strength. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 109:12207-12. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1204929109. Full text
This research identifies a role for a bone morphogenetic protein receptor in controlling bone mass.

9. Bassett JHD, Gogakos A, … Croucher PI, Williams GR. (2012) Rapid-throughput skeletal phenotyping of 100 knockout mice identifies 9 new genes that determine bone strength. PLoS Genetics 8:e1002858 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1002858 Full text
In this paper, we reported a screening method to identify the genes that control bone strength. This method formed the basis of the Origins of Bone and Cartilage Disease program supported by the Wellcome Trust.

10. Chantry AD, Heath D, …, Croucher PI. (2010) Inhibiting activin-A signaling stimulates bone formation and prevents cancer induced bone destruction in vivo. J Bone Miner Res 25:2357-70. DOI: 10.1002/jbmr.142. Full text
We showed that inhibiting activin signalling prevents the development of myeloma bone disease.

11. Heath DJ, Chantry AD, … Croucher PI. (2009) Inhibiting Dickkopf-1 (Dkk-1) removes suppression of bone formation and prevents the development of osteolytic bone disease in multiple myeloma. J Bone Miner Res 24:425-36. DOI: 10.1359/jbmr.081104. Full text
This work reports a key role for Wnt signalling in the control of bone formation in myeloma.

12. Croucher PI, De Hendrik R, … Vanderkerken K. (2003) Zoledronic acid treatment of 5T2MM-bearing mice inhibits the development of myeloma bone disease: evidence for decreased osteolysis, tumor burden and angiogenesis, and increased survival. J Bone Miner Res 18:482-92. DOI: 10.1359/jbmr.2003.18.3.482 Full text
Here, we used our mouse models of multiple myeloma to show that the bisphosphonate drug zoledronic acid inhibits both myeloma bone disease and the progression of myeloma itself. This work uncovered an important link between bone resorption and progression of cancer in bone, and is key to our current work on cancer cell dormancy.

13. Croucher PI, Shipman CM, … Vanderkerken K. (2001) Osteoprotegerin inhibits the development of osteolytic bone disease in multiple myeloma. Blood 98:3534-40. DOI: 10.1182/blood.v98.13.3534. Full text
Commentary: Finally, how myeloma lyses bone
In this work, we identified the RANKL pathway as the driver of the bone disease that occurs in multiple myeloma.