Tumor-stroma crosstalk in bone tissue: The osteoclastogenic potential of a breast cancer cell line in a co-culture system and the role of EGFR inhibition

Laura Mercatali, Federico La Manna, Giacomo Miserocchi, Chiara Liverani, Alessandro De Vita, Chiara Spadazzi, Alberto Bongiovanni, Federica Recine, Dino Amadori, Martina Ghetti, Toni Ibrahim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Although bone metastases represent a major challenge in the natural history of breast cancer (BC), the complex interactions involved have hindered the development of robust in vitro models. The aim of this work is the development of a preclinical model of cancer and bone stromal cells to mimic the bone microenvironment. We studied the effects on osteoclastogenesis of BC cells and Mesenchymal stem cells (MSC) cultured alone or in combination. We also analyzed: (a) whether the blockade of the Epithelial Growth Factor Receptor (EGFR) pathway modified their influence on monocytes towards differentiation, and (b) the efficacy of bone-targeted therapy on osteoclasts. We evaluated the osteoclastogenesis modulation of human peripheral blood monocytes (PBMC) indirectly induced by the conditioned medium (CM) of the human BC cell line SCP2, cultured singly or with MSC. Osteoclastogenesis was evaluated by TRAP analysis. The effect of the EGFR blockade was assessed by treating the cells with gefitinib, and analyzed with the 3-(4,5-dimethylthiazol-2-yl)-2,5-diphenyltetrazolium bromide (MTT) assay and Western Blot (WB). We observed that SCP2 co-cultured with MSC increased the differentiation of PBMC. This effect was underpinned upon pre-treatment of the co-culture with gefitinib. Co-culture of SCP2 with MSC increased the expression of both the bone-related marker Receptor Activator of Nuclear Factor κB (RANK) and EGFR in BC cells. These upregulations were not affected by the EGFR blockade. The effects of the CM obtained by the cells treated with gefitinib in combination with the treatment of the preosteoclasts with the bone-targeted agents and everolimus enhanced the inhibition of the osteoclastogenesis. Finally, we developed a fully human co-culture system of BC cells and bone progenitor cells. We observed that the interaction of MSC with cancer cells induced in the latter molecular changes and a higher power of inducing osteoclastogenesis. We found that blocking EGFR signaling could be an efficacious strategy for breaking the interactions between cancer and bone cells in order to inhibit bone metastasis.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1655
JournalInternational Journal of Molecular Sciences
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Aug 1 2017


  • Breast cancer
  • Co-culture
  • Mesenchymal stromal cells
  • Non-canonical osteoclastogenesis
  • Osteoclasts

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Catalysis
  • Molecular Biology
  • Spectroscopy
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Organic Chemistry
  • Inorganic Chemistry


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