Bone Oncology

Bone Metastases Scan of a bone Cells in Mitosis

Professor Ingunn Holen

Our programme in bone oncology research is led by Professor Ingunn Holen in the Mellanby Centre for Bone Research, an interdisciplinary grouping forming part of the Sheffield Cancer Research. In particular, our work is focussed on advanced aspects of primary breast and prostate cancer, with particular emphasis on their metastasis to bone. For example, using a cancer model, Dr Penelope Ottewell has discovered that an ordered combination of drugs might represent an improved therapy for breast cancer patients. We are also working towards elucidating the molecular mechanisms involved in tumour homing and colonisation of the bone. Using a range of advanced model systems and state-of-the art imaging technology, we aim to establish the key early steps in bone metastasis and then identify therapeutic agents that will lead to improved outcomes for patients.
Together with our clinical colleagues at Weston Park Hospital, led by Professor Robert Coleman, we aim to rapidly expand laboratory findings into clinical feasibility studies.

Indeed our expertise in developing in vivo models of bone metastasis is internationally recognised, and contributes to Sheffield’s importance as a leading European centre for bone research. We have established a comprehensive range of models (xenografts, syngeneic and ‘humanised’), which cover all aspects of tumour progression in bone, from early colonisation steps to advanced disease. Detailed analysis of this process is subsequently carried out by bone histomorphometry. The bone oncology research programme also includes the analysis of the roles of the stromal microenvironment in bone metastasis, and how therapeutic agents can be used to shut down angiogenesis. Alongside a team led by Dr Janet Brown and Professor Peter Selby at the University of Leeds we are working to develop novel biomarkers of bone metastasis, which will be crucial for detecting cancer progression in groups of patients. We also participate in collaborative projects with other researchers in Sheffield Cancer Research, including Dr Colby Eaton (bone metastasis in prostate cancer) and Professor Nicola Brown (in vivo models and tumour angiogenesis). The establishment of Sheffield Cancer Research, with its strong emphasis on basic and translational medicine, represents an important new opportunity to help contribute to the long history of bone research in Sheffield.