Background: Bone metastases are associated with increased morbidity and poor prognosis in breast cancer patients. Radium-223 dichloride is a calcium mimetic that localizes to bone, providing targeted therapy for skeletal metastasis.
Methods: We investigated the mode of action of radium-223 dichloride using breast cancer cell, osteoclast, and osteoblast cultures as well as a mouse model of breast cancer bone metastasis. A single dose of radium-223 dichloride was used in three different settings mimicking the prevention or treatment of bone metastasis. Disease progression was monitored using fluorescence and radiographic imaging and histological analyses. The effect of radium-223 dichloride alone and in combination with doxorubicin or zoledronic acid on survival of mice was analyzed by Kaplan-Meier methods. All statistical tests used were two-sided.
Results: Radium-223 dichloride incorporated into bone matrix and inhibited proliferation of breast cancer cells and differentiation of osteoblasts and osteoclasts (all P values < .001) in vitro. In an established bone metastasis setting, radium-223 dichloride prevented tumor-induced cachexia (0/14 vs 7/14 control mice) and decreased osteolysis by 56% and tumor growth by 43% (all P values < .05). Radium-223 dichloride induced double-strand DNA breaks in cancer cells in vivo. Finally, radium-223 dichloride extended survival as a monotherapy (29.2 days, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 26.6 to 31.8 days, P = .039) and in combination with zoledronic acid (31.4 days, 95% CI = 28.8 to 34.0 days, P = .004) or doxorubicin (31.5 days, 95% CI = 29.5 to 33.5 days, P < .001) compared to the vehicle group (24.9 days, 95% CI = 23.4 to 26.4 days). Similar but even more pronounced effects were observed when radium-223 dichloride was administered in a preventive or micrometastatic setting.
Conclusions: Our findings strongly support the development of radium-223 dichloride for the treatment of breast cancer patients with or at high risk of developing bone metastases.