Bone metastases

Nat Rev Dis Primers. 2020 Oct 15;6(1):83. doi: 10.1038/s41572-020-00216-3.


Bone is the most frequent site for metastasis for many cancers, notably for tumours originating in the breast and the prostate. Tumour cells can escape from the primary tumour site and colonize the bone microenvironment. Within the bone, these disseminated tumour cells, as well as those arising in the context of multiple myeloma, may assume a state of dormancy, remaining quiescent for years before resuming proliferation and causing overt metastasis, which causes bone destruction via activation of osteoclast-mediated osteolysis. This structural damage can lead to considerable morbidity, including pain, fractures and impaired quality of life. Although treatment of bone metastases and myeloma bone disease is rarely curative, disease control is often possible for many years through the use of systemic anticancer treatments on a background of multidisciplinary supportive care. This care should include bone-targeted agents to inhibit tumour-associated osteolysis and prevent skeletal morbidity as well as use of appropriate local treatments such as radiation therapy, orthopaedic surgery and specialist palliative care to minimize the impact of metastatic bone disease on physical functioning. In this Primer, we provide an overview of the clinical features, the pathophysiology and the specific treatment approaches to prevent and treat bone metastases from solid tumours as well as myeloma bone disease.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bone Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Bone Neoplasms / physiopathology
  • Bone Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Neoplasm Metastasis / diagnosis
  • Neoplasm Metastasis / physiopathology*
  • Neoplasm Metastasis / therapy
  • Neoplasms / complications
  • Neoplasms / physiopathology