The Osteogenic Niche Is a Calcium Reservoir of Bone Micrometastases and Confers Unexpected Therapeutic Vulnerability

Hai Wang, Lin Tian, Jun Liu, Amit Goldstein, Igor Bado, Weijie Zhang, Benjamin R. Arenkiel, Zonghai Li, Meng Yang, Shiyu Du, Hong Zhao, David R. Rowley, Stephen T.C. Wong, Zbigniew Gugala, Xiang H.F. Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations


The fate of disseminated tumor cells is largely determined by microenvironment (ME) niche. The osteogenic niche promotes cancer cell proliferation and bone metastasis progression. We investigated the underlying mechanisms using pre-clinical models and analyses of clinical data. We discovered that the osteogenic niche serves as a calcium (Ca) reservoir for cancer cells through gap junctions. Cancer cells cannot efficiently absorb Ca from ME, but depend on osteogenic cells to increase intracellular Ca concentration. The Ca signaling, together with previously identified mammalian target of rapamycin signaling, promotes bone metastasis progression. Interestingly, effective inhibition of these pathways can be achieved by danusertib, or a combination of everolimus and arsenic trioxide, which provide possibilities of eliminating bone micrometastases using clinically established drugs. Wang et al. report that cancer cells obtain calcium from the osteogenic niche through gap junctions and that Ca signaling together with mTOR signaling promotes bone metastasis progression. They identify that As2O3 and danusertib affect Ca signaling and preferentially target cancer cells in the bone microenvironment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)823-839.e7
JournalCancer Cell
Issue number5
StatePublished - Nov 12 2018


  • bone metastasis
  • breast cancer
  • calcium signaling
  • drug discovery or repositioning
  • gap junctions
  • microenvironment
  • micrometastasis
  • prostate cancer
  • the osteogenic niche
  • therapeutic responses

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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