Label-free Raman spectroscopy provides early determination and precise localization of breast cancer-colonized bone alterations
Breast neoplasms frequently colonize bone and induce development of osteolytic bone lesions by disrupting the homeostasis of the bone microenvironment. This degenerative process can lead to bone pain and pathological bone fracture, a major cause of cancer morbidity and diminished quality of life, which is exacerbated by our limited ability to monitor early metastatic disease in bone and assess fracture risk. Spurred by its label-free, real-time nature and its exquisite molecular specificity, we employed spontaneous Raman spectroscopy to assess and quantify early metastasis driven biochemical alterations to bone composition. As early as two weeks after intracardiac inoculations of MDA-MB-435 breast cancer cells in NOD-SCID mice, Raman spectroscopic measurements in the femur and spine revealed consistent changes in carbonate substitution, overall mineralization as well as crystallinity increase in tumor-bearing bones when compared with their normal counterparts. Our observations reveal the possibility of early stage detection of biochemical changes in the tumor-bearing bones – significantly before morphological variations are captured through radiographic diagnosis. This study paves the way for a better molecular understanding of altered bone remodeling in such metastatic niches, and for further clinical studies with the goal of establishing a non-invasive tool for early metastasis detection and prediction of pathological fracture risk in breast cancer.