Research ArticlesVolume 6, Spring 2012

The Verification of a Novel Explant System Used to Determine the Role of Osteocytes in the Breast Cancer Vicious Cycle

Sonia Bansal1,

Genevieve N. Brown1,

X. Edward Guo1

1 Bone Bioengineering Laboratory, Department of Biomedical Engineering, Columbia University, New York NY


Breast cancer affects one in eight women per year, and 70% of patients with stage IV breast cancer develop metastases in bone, causing life-threatening side effects. We examine the use of an explant system to mimic breast cancer metastasis to bone without confounding cell types and to determine the role that osteocytes, the bone mechanosensing cells, may have in the development of metastasis. Using the explant system, a custom cell seeder and sterile cell culture techniques, we introduced metastatic MDA-MB-231/GFP cells to a three-dimensional bone matrix with osteocytes only. Confocal imaging confirms that breast cancer cells were, in fact, successfully seeded onto bone cores, mimicking metastasis. Though additional experiments will be necessary to determine the importance of breast cancer-osteocyte interactions, this study shows that the explant system is a viable methodology for studying breast cancer in bone.