Inhibition of bone resorption and growth of breast cancer in the bone microenvironment

Bone. 2009 Feb;44(2):380-6. doi: 10.1016/j.bone.2008.10.047. Epub 2008 Nov 8.


Breast cancer frequently metastasizes to bone, where tumor cells induce osteoclasts to locally destroy bone. During bone resorption, growth factors are locally released that may support bone metastatic growth. Differently from most other tissues, drugs that can limit local turnover, such as bisphosphonates and osteoprotegerin (OPG), are available for bone. We examined the hypothesis that inhibition of bone resorption by two different mechanisms may also affect the growth of cancer cells in bone. For this, we tested the effects of high doses of OPG and zoledronic acid (ZOL) on progression of MDA-231-B/Luc+ breast cancer cells in the bone microenvironment using whole body bioluminescent reporter imaging (BLI). Both treatments significantly inhibited the development of radiographically detectable osteolytic lesions. Histologic examination corroborated the radiographic findings, showing that both treatments preserved the integrity of bone trabeculae and prevented bone destruction (significantly higher trabecular bone volumes vs. vehicle). However, whereas practically no TRAcP-positive osteoclasts were observed in tibiae preparations of animals treated with Fc-OPG, TRAcP-positive osteoclasts were still present in the animals treated with ZOL. Intra-bone tumor burden was reduced with ZOL and Fc-OPG treatment. Although there appeared to be a trend for less overall total tumor burden upon treatment with both compounds, this was not significant as assessed by BLI and histomorphometric analysis due to the extramedullary growth of cancer cells which was not affected by these treatments. Collectively, anti-resorptive agents with different mechanisms of action - ZOL and OPG - significantly reduced cancer-induced osteolysis and intra-osseous tumor burden, but failed to restrain local tumor growth. However, interference with the bone micro-environmental growth support could still be of therapeutic relevance when given to patients early in the course of bone metastatic disease.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Acid Phosphatase / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Bone Resorption / drug therapy
  • Bone Resorption / prevention & control*
  • Bone and Bones / drug effects
  • Bone and Bones / pathology*
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Cell Count
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects
  • Diphosphonates / pharmacology
  • Diphosphonates / therapeutic use
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Imidazoles / pharmacology
  • Imidazoles / therapeutic use
  • Isoenzymes / metabolism
  • Luminescent Measurements
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Mice, Nude
  • Osteoclasts / drug effects
  • Osteoclasts / pathology
  • Osteolysis / diagnostic imaging
  • Osteoprotegerin / pharmacology
  • Osteoprotegerin / therapeutic use
  • Radiography
  • Tartrate-Resistant Acid Phosphatase
  • Whole Body Imaging
  • Zoledronic Acid


  • Diphosphonates
  • Imidazoles
  • Isoenzymes
  • Osteoprotegerin
  • Zoledronic Acid
  • Acid Phosphatase
  • Tartrate-Resistant Acid Phosphatase