Trends in bone metastasis modeling

Roberta Laranga, Serena Duchi, Toni Ibrahim, Ania Naila Guerrieri, Davide Maria Donati, Enrico Lucarelli

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Bone is one of the most common sites for cancer metastasis. Bone tissue is composed by different kinds of cells that coexist in a coordinated balance. Due to the complexity of bone, it is impossible to capture the intricate interactions between cells under either physiological or pathological conditions. Hence, a variety of in vivo and in vitro approaches have been developed. Various models of tumor–bone diseases are routinely used to provide valuable information on the relationship between metastatic cancer cells and the bone tissue. Ideally, when modeling the metastasis of human cancers to bone, models would replicate the intra-tumor heterogeneity, as well as the genetic and phenotypic changes that occur with human cancers; such models would be scalable and reproducible to allow high-throughput investigation. Despite the continuous progress, there is still a lack of solid, amenable, and affordable models that are able to fully recapitulate the biological processes happening in vivo, permitting a correct interpretation of results. In the last decades, researchers have demonstrated that three-dimensional (3D) methods could be an innovative approach that lies between bi-dimensional (2D) models and animal models. Scientific evidence supports that the tumor microenvironment can be better reproduced in a 3D system than a 2D cell culture, and the 3D systems can be scaled up for drug screening in the same way as the 2D systems thanks to the current technologies developed. However, 3D models cannot completely recapitulate the inter-and intra-tumor heterogeneity found in patients. In contrast, ex vivo cultures of fragments of bone preserve key cell–cell and cell–matrix interactions and allow the study of bone cells in their natural 3D environment. Moreover, ex vivo bone organ cultures could be a better model to resemble the human pathogenic metastasis condition and useful tools to predict in vivo response to therapies. The aim of our review is to provide an overview of the current trends in bone metastasis modeling. By showing the existing in vitro and ex vivo systems, we aspire to contribute to broaden the knowledge on bone metastasis models and make these tools more appealing for further translational studies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number2315
Pages (from-to)1-26
Number of pages26
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2020


  • 3D models
  • Bone metastasis
  • Ex vivo models

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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