Chemokines and chemokine receptors play diverse roles in homeostasis. The chemokine stromal cell-derived factor 1 (SDF-1) and its receptor CXCR4 have critical functions in the immune, circulatory, and central nervous systems and have also been implicated in tumor biology and metastasis. Here we review the current data regarding the role of the CXCR4/SDF-1 chemokine axis in the development of bone metastases, derived from tumor models of breast or prostate cancers. There is substantial evidence that CXCR4 and SDF-1 directly influence the survival and proliferation of tumor cells. In regards to bone metastases, the CXCR4/SDF-1 axis also appears to facilitate tumor cell recruitment to the bone marrow microenvironment via a homing mechanism. This makes disruption of the chemokine axis an attractive therapeutic target for the prevention of tumor cell spread to bone. However, within the bone microenvironment, SDF-1 and CXCR4 appear to have conflicting roles. While genetic disruption of CXCR4 enhances osteoclast activity and therefore stimulates tumor cell growth in the bone - likely via release of bone-derived growth factors - SDF-1 has been shown to have either a stimulatory effect or no effect on osteoclasts. In short, the effects of the CXCR4/SDF-1 axis on tumor cell growth within the bone are not yet fully defined. Further, there are theoretical risks that blockade of this chemokine axis could impair immune function or mobilize tumor cells leading to other sites of metastasis. As such, caution should be taken when designing therapeutic strategies targeting this chemokine axis.
Keywords: Chemokines, CXCR4, SDF-1, bone metastasis, breast cancer, prostate cancer
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