Osteoblasts contribute to a protective niche that supports melanoma cell proliferation and survival

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

  • External authors:
  • Jennifer Ferguson
  • Daniel Wilcock
  • Sophie McEntegart
  • Andrew Badrock
  • Mitchell P Levesque
  • Reinhard Dummer
  • Michael Smith


Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer; a primary driver of this high level of morbidity is the propensity of melanoma cells to metastasise. When malignant tumours develop distant metastatic lesions the new local tissue niche is known to impact on the biology of the cancer cells. However, little is known about how different metastatic tissue sites impact on frontline targeted therapies. Intriguingly, melanoma bone lesions have significantly lower response to BRAF or MEK inhibitor therapies. Here we have investigated how the cellular niche of the bone can support melanoma cells by stimulating growth and survival via paracrine signalling between osteoblasts and cancer cells. Melanoma cells can enhance the differentiation of osteoblasts leading to increased production of secreted ligands, including RANKL. Differentiated osteoblasts in turn can support melanoma cell proliferation and survival via the secretion of RANKL that elevates the levels of the transcription factor MITF, even in the presence of BRAF inhibitor. By blocking RANKL signalling, either via neutralising antibodies, genetic alterations or the RANKL receptor inhibitor SPD304, the survival advantage provided by osteoblasts could be overcome.

Bibliographical metadata

Original languageEnglish
JournalPigment Cell and Melanoma Research
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 4 Jul 2019