Development of a human preclinical model of osteoclastogenesis from peripheral blood monocytes co-cultured with breast cancer cell lines

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The crosstalk between tumor cells and bone cells in the bone microenvironment is crucial to understanding the mechanism of bone metastasis formation. We developed an in vitro fully human preclinical model of a co-culture of breast cancer cells and monocytes undergoing differentiation towards osteoclasts. We optimized a model of osteoclastogenesis starting from a sample of peripheral blood collected from healthy donors. Peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) were first separated by density gradient centrifugation, seeded at a high density and induced to differentiate by adding two growth factors (GFs): receptor activator of nuclear factor-κB ligand (RANKL) and macrophage colony-stimulating factor (MCSF). The cells were left in culture for 14 days and then fixed and analyzed by downstream analysis. In osteolytic bone metastases, one of the effects of cancer cell arrival in bone is the induction of osteoclastogenesis. We thus challenged our model with co-cultures of breast cancer cells to study the differentiation power of cancer cells with respect to GFs. A straightforward way of studying cancer cell-osteoclast interaction is to perform indirect co-cultures based on the use of conditioned medium collected from breast cancer cell cultures and mixed with fresh medium. This mixture is then used to induce osteoclast differentiation. We also optimized a method of direct co-culture in which cancer cells and monocytes undergoing differentiation share the medium and exchange secreted factors. This is a significant improvement over the original indirect co-culture method as researchers can observe the reciprocal interactions of the two cell types and perform downstream analyses for both cancer cells and osteoclasts. This method enables us to study the effect of drugs on the metastatic bone microenvironment and to seed cell lines other than those derived from breast cancer. The model can also be used to study other diseases such as osteoporosis or other bone conditions.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere56311
JournalJournal of Visualized Experiments
Issue number127
Publication statusPublished - Sept 13 2017


  • Bone metastasis
  • Cancer cells
  • Cancer research
  • Co-cultures
  • Human preclinical model
  • In vitro
  • Issue 127
  • MCSF
  • Osteoclastogenesis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Chemical Engineering(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)


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