Background: Bone, which abundantly stores a variety of growth factors, provides a fertile soil for cancer cells to develop metastases by supplying these growth factors as a consequence of osteoclastic bone resorption. Accordingly, suppression of osteoclast activity is a primary approach to inhibit bone metastasis, and bisphosphonate (BP), a specific inhibitor of osteoclasts, has been widely used for the treatment of bone metastases in cancer patients. To obtain further insights into the therapeutic usefulness of BP, the authors studied the effects of BP on bone and visceral metastases in animal models of metastasis.
Methods: The authors used two animal models of breast carcinoma metastasis that they had developed in their laboratory over the last several years. One model uses female young nude mice in which inoculation of the MDA-MB-231 or MCF-7 human breast carcinoma cells into the left cardiac ventricle selectively develops osteolytic or osteosclerotic bone metastases, respectively. Another model uses syngeneic female mice (Balb/c) in which orthotopic inoculation of the 4T1 murine mammary carcinoma cells develops metastases in bone and visceral organs including lung, liver, and kidney.
Results: BP inhibited the development and progression of osteolytic bone metastases of MDA-MB-231 breast carcinoma through increased apoptosis in osteoclasts and breast carcinoma cells colonized in bone. In a preventative administration, however, BP alone increased the metastases to visceral organs with profound inhibition of bone metastases. However, combination of BP with anticancer agents such as uracil and tegafur or doxorubicin suppressed the metastases not only in bone but also visceral organs and prolonged the survival in 4T1 mammary tumor-bearing animals. Of interest, inhibition of early osteolysis by BP inhibited the subsequent development of osteosclerotic bone metastases of MCF-7 breast carcinoma.
Conclusions: These results suggest that BP has beneficial effects on bone metastasis of breast carcinoma and is more effective when combined with anticancer agents. They also suggest that the animal models of bone metastasis described here allow us to design optimized regimen of BP administration for the treatment of breast carcinoma patients with bone and visceral metastases.