Collaborative Research Project: Zeroing in on the Cancer Cells That 'Sleep' in Bone
Garvan and Weizmann researchers, led by Professor Peter Croucher, Dr Tri Phan and Professor Ido Amit, are working together to solve why some cancer cells ‘sleep’ in bone for months or even years – and how their genetic output changes as they ‘wake’.
The researchers are studying multiple myeloma, a cancer of the blood in which cells lodge in bone. Already, they have isolated thousands of individual myeloma cells from bone and conducted two different kinds of single-cell analyses to measure the genetic output of a cell.
The research team has identified clusters of active genes that appear to act as ‘signatures’ of dormant myeloma cells. They are following up leads of ‘dormancy genes’ that are active in sleeping cells and so could be targeted with therapies – which could ‘force out’ and awaken dormant cells so they can be destroyed by chemotherapy.
In addition, the researchers are investigating how bone marrow biopsies could one day provide patients with a readout of their risk of relapse – which could make it possible to target therapies and treatment strategies to individual patients.
Armed with knowledge that only cellular genomics can offer, the research team has – for the first time – a realistic shot at new cancer treatments, and even cures, based on eliminating or monitoring sleeping cancer cells in bone.
Visualising sleeping cancer cells within bone