Since the first report in 2003, bisphosphonate-related osteonecrosis of the jaw (BRONJ) has been increasing, without effective clinical strategies. Osteoporosis is common in elderly women, and bisphosphonates (BPs) are typical and widely used anti-osteoporotic or anti-bone-resorptive drugs. BRONJ is now a serious concern in dentistry. As BPs are pyrophosphate analogues and bind strongly to bone hydroxyapatite, and the P-C-P structure of BPs is non-hydrolysable, they accumulate in bones upon repeated administration. During bone-resorption, BPs are taken into osteoclasts and exhibit cytotoxicity, producing a long-lasting anti-bone-resorptive effect. BPs are divided into nitrogen-containing BPs (N-BPs) and non-nitrogen-containing BPs (non-N-BPs). N-BPs have far stronger anti-bone-resorptive effects than non-N-BPs, and BRONJ is caused by N-BPs. Our murine experiments have revealed the following. N-BPs, but not non-N-BPs, exhibit direct and potent inflammatory/necrotic effects on soft-tissues. These effects are augmented by lipopolysaccharide (the inflammatory component of bacterial cell-walls) and the accumulation of N-BPs in jawbones is augmented by inflammation. N-BPs are taken into soft-tissue cells via phosphate-transporters, while the non-N-BPs etidronate and clodronate inhibit this transportation. Etidronate, but not clodronate, has the effect of expelling N-BPs that have accumulated in bones. Moreover, etidronate and clodronate each have an analgesic effect, while clodronate has an anti-inflammatory effect via inhibition of phosphate-transporters. These findings suggest that BRONJ may be induced by phosphate-transporter-mediated and infection-promoted mechanisms, and that etidronate and clodronate may be useful for preventing and treating BRONJ. Our clinical trials support etidronate being useful for treating BRONJ, although additional clinical trials of etidronate and clodronate are needed.
Keywords: bisphosphonate; clodronate; etidronate; inflammation; necrosis; phosphate transporter.