( | Press Release | 2020-02-19 23:08:19 )
Researchers from the Karl Landsteiner University in Krems aim to develop a novel model of bone metastatic disease in breast cancer.

Krems (Austria), 19 February 2020 – A new project just launched at Karl Landsteiner University of Health Sciences in Krems (KL Krems) aims at gaining insights into the development of bone metastases in breast cancer patients and identifying biomarkers as well as new treatment strategies. A key step of the project is the culture of a bone-like scaffold in a rotating bioreactor, to create lifelike replicas of the bone microenvironment. Close cooperation between KL Krems, Krems University Hospital and other research institutions on Campus Krems will promote networking and support an interdisciplinary approach within the project.

Almost 15% of breast cancer patients suffer from bone metastasis – some of them as late as 25 years after diagnosis. Nine out of ten patients with bone metastases do not survive longer than five years. These dramatic figures underline the urgent need to identify new methods for diagnosing patients at risk of bone metastases and preventing their development. Karl Landsteiner University of Health Sciences (KL Krems) has now launched a project, funded by NÖ Forschungs- und Bildungsges.m.b.H. (NFB), which is designed to do just that – using innovative methods such as a 3D model cultured in a rotating bioreactor.


“Bone is a highly complex organ,” says project leader Sonia Vallet, a consultant at the Department of Internal Medicine 2 at Krems University Hospital and senior scientist in the Molecular Oncology/Hematology working group at KL Krems. “We want to gain a better understanding of what directs tumor cells to invade the bone.” Dr Vallet and her team will be focusing on what is known as the endosteal niche. This part of the bone contains large amounts of cells called osteoblasts, which are responsible for bone mineralization. Dr Vallet’s previous work showed that, in their early developmental stages, osteoblasts are involved in the formation of bone metastases. However, the mechanisms behind still need to be elucidated.

The first step of the project consists of the development of a 3D model of the endosteal niche using a rotating bioreactor, and will be performed in close collaboration with IMC University of Applied Sciences Krems. “The bioreactor will enable us to create an in vitro model of the endosteal niche,” explains Dr Vallet. “This 3D model will be studied by means of biochemical and molecular-biological analysis, and by KL Krems’ Biomechanics Lab who will be using ultra-high-definition micro-computed tomography.”


Once the model has been established, the team will begin gathering valuable information about the development of bone metastasis in breast cancer, by investigating how osteoblasts support invasion and growth of breast cancer cells, as well as their drug resistance. In addition, the researchers aim at identifying biomarkers associated with these processes, which could possibly be suitable for use as diagnostic tools. “Then, we will test conventional bone-targeted agents and others that are currently in the trial phase to find out whether and how they influence the various stages of bone metastasis development,” Dr Vallet comments, referring to the third aim of the project.

As part of this translational oncology project, which has been granted a 3-year funding by Lower Austrian government agency NÖ Forschungs- und Bildungsges.m.b.H. (NFB), KL Krems will create links between high-quality basic research, patient care at the University Hospital and the life science expertise available in Krems. This interdisciplinary approach aims at developing more effective and personalized treatment in the increasingly complex field of oncology.

About Karl Landsteiner University of Health Sciences
Karl Landsteiner University of Health Sciences (KL) is a pioneer for innovation in medical and health sciences education and research, and a catalyst for groundbreaking work which will benefit society at large. Research at KL focuses on niche fields in bridge disciplines such as molecular oncology and hematology, biomedical engineering, psychology and psychodynamics, as well as topics including water quality and related health issues. Study programmes include health sciences, human medicine, psychology, psychotherapy and counselling and have full European recognition. A network of university hospitals in St PoeltenPölten, Krems, and Tulln provides students with quality-assured, research-led education; it. It enables them to do internationally- recognized top-class clinical and translational research that is recognised worldwide. Karl Landsteiner University received accreditation by the Agency for Quality Assurance and Accreditation Austria (AQ Austria) in 2013.

Scientific Contact
OA Dr. Sonia Vallet
Department of Internal Medicine 2
University Hospital Krems
Karl Landsteiner University of Health Sciences
Mitterweg 10
3500 Krems an der Donau
T +43 2732 9004 2555

Karl Landsteiner University of Health Sciences
Eva-Maria Gruber
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Dr.-Karl-Dorrek-Straße 30
3500 Krems / Austria
T +43 2732 72090 231
M +43 664 5056211

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