Although increased bone formation is a prominent feature of patients with osteosclerotic metastases from prostate cancer, there is also some evidence for increased bone resorption. The aim of this study was to compare the clinical utility of new bone resorption markers to that of bone formation in patients with bone metastases from prostate cancer before and after bisphosphonate treatment. Thirty-nine patients with prostate cancer and bone metastasis, nine patients with prostate cancer without bone metastases, nine patients with benign prostatic hyperplasia and 355 healthy age-matched men were included. Urinary non-isomerized (alpha CTX) and beta isomerized (beta CTX) type I collagen C-telopeptides (CTX) and a new assay for serum CTX were used to assess bone resorption. Bone formation was determined by serum osteocalcin, serum total (T-ALP) and bone (BAP) alkaline phosphatase and serum type I collagen C-terminal propeptide (PICP). Fourteen patients with bone metastases were also evaluated 15 days after a single injection of the bisphosphonate pamidronate (120 mg). Levels of all bone formation and bone resorption markers were significantly (P < 0.006-0.0001) higher in patients with prostate cancer and bone metastasis than in patients with benign prostatic hyperplasia, patients with prostate cancer without bone metastases and healthy controls. In patients with bone metastases the median was increased by 67% for serum osteocalcin, 128% for T-ALP, 138% for BAP, 79% for PICP, 220% for urinary alpha CTX, 149% for urinary beta CTX and 214% for serum CTX. After bisphosphonate treatment all three resorption markers significantly decreased by an average of 65% (P = 0.001), 71% (P = 0.0010) and 61% (P = 0.0015) for urinary alpha CTX, urinary beta CTX and serum CTX, respectively, whereas no significant change was observed for any bone formation markers. Patients with prostate cancer and bone metastases exhibit a marked increase in bone resorption, which decreases within a few days of treatment with pamidronate. These findings suggest that these new resorption markers may be useful for the management of these patients.