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IMMOSCAN: The role of IMMuneOSteoclasts in CANcer – Implications for therapy

Speaker: Prof. Dr. Hanna Taipaleenmäki
Affiliation: Institute of Musculoskeletal Medicine
Funding: 2022 to 2025

Primary and secondary bone tumors affect patients from children to elderly. Despite advances in diagnosis and treatment, bone tumors are incurable and thus, new therapies are needed. In the bone microenvironment, cancer cells disrupt the physiological balance between bone forming osteoblasts, bone resorbing osteoclasts and immune cells, leading to excessive osteoclast-mediated bone destruction. Besides standard treatments, including chemo- and radiation therapy and bone-targeted anti-resorptive therapies, immunotherapies have been studied in bone cancers. However, targeting of immune cells largely depends on local microenvironment, which in bone is immunosuppressive, rendering patients with bone tumors less responsive to current immunotherapies.

The goal of the IMMOSCAN consortium is to uncover novel bone cell subpopulations that exert immunomodulatory functions and explore their potential use as novel targets in primary and metastatic bone cancers. Based on our preliminary results and published data we hypothesize that certain bone cells are prone to immune suppression, which might create a permissive microenvironment for cancer and resistance to immunotherapies. During the course of the project, we aim to identify and characterize these cells in the bone-cancer microenvironment and explore mechanisms to target them as a novel therapeutic strategy to improve the efficacy of immunotherapy and control tumor progression in bone. The IMMOSCAN consortium combines complementary and interdisciplinary strengths of five partners that bring together latest imaging and sequencing techniques, cell- and molecular biology approaches, state-of-the-art pre-clinical models as well as patient samples to ensure clinical relevance of the project. The findings of the project are expected to increase our understanding of the complex bone-cancer microenvironment and identify novel targetable pathways for innovative immune therapy in bone cancers.