RANKL regulates testicular cancer growth and Denosumab treatment has suppressive effects on GCNIS and advanced seminoma

Br J Cancer. 2022 Aug;127(3):408-421. doi: 10.1038/s41416-022-01810-w. Epub 2022 Apr 13.


Background: Testicular germ cell tumours (TGCTs) have a high sensitivity to chemotherapy and a high cure rate, although with serious adverse effects. In the search for tumour suppressive drugs, the RANKL inhibitor Denosumab, used to treat osteoporosis, came up as a candidate since RANKL signalling was recently identified in the testis.

Methods: Expression of RANKL, RANK and OPG, and the effects of RANKL inhibition were investigated in human TGCTs, TGCT-derived cell-lines, and TGCT-xenograft models. Serum RANKL was measured in TGCT-patients.

Results: RANKL, RANK, and OPG were expressed in germ cell neoplasia in situ (GCNIS), TGCTs, and TGCT-derived cell lines. RANKL-inhibition reduced proliferation of seminoma-derived TCam-2 cells, but had no effect on embryonal carcinoma-derived NTera2 cells. Pretreatment with Denosumab did not augment the effect of cisplatin in vitro. However, inhibition of RANKL in vivo reduced tumour growth exclusively in the TCam-2-xenograft model and Denosumab-treatment decreased proliferation in human GCNIS cultures. In TGCT-patients serum RANKL had no prognostic value.

Conclusions: This study shows that the RANKL signalling system is expressed in GCNIS and seminoma where RANKL inhibition suppresses tumour growth in vitro and in vivo. Future studies are needed to determine whether RANKL is important for the malignant transformation or transition from GCNIS to invasive tumours.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Denosumab / pharmacology
  • Denosumab / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Neoplasms, Germ Cell and Embryonal* / drug therapy
  • Seminoma* / drug therapy
  • Seminoma* / metabolism
  • Testicular Neoplasms* / pathology


  • Denosumab

Supplementary concepts

  • Testicular Germ Cell Tumor