We investigated the molecular basis for osteolytic bone metastasis by selecting human breast cancer cell line subpopulations with elevated metastatic activity and functionally validating genes that are overexpressed in these cells. These genes act cooperatively to cause osteolytic metastasis, and most of them encode secreted and cell surface proteins. Two of these genes, interleukin-11 and CTGF, encode osteolytic and angiogenic factors whose expression is further increased by the prometastatic cytokine TGFβ. Overexpression of this bone metastasis gene set is superimposed on a poor-prognosis gene expression signature already present in the parental breast cancer population, suggesting that metastasis requires a set of functions beyond those underlying the emergence of the primary tumor.
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