Objective: To determine whether the osteopenia and unusual fractures observed in children with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) were related to the disease rather than to its treatment.
Design: Prospective analysis of the bone and mineral status in 40 consecutive children with ALL seen in a pediatric tertiary-care referral center.
Methods: Biochemical indicators of mineral, endocrine, and vitamin D status were measured before initiation of therapy. Bone mass was determined radiographically and by dual-photon absorptiometry of the lumbar region of the spine (L2-L4). Correlations between clinical observations, leukemia variables, bone mass, and biochemical assessment were determined.
Results: At the time of diagnosis musculoskeletal pain was present in 36% of patients and was more common in children with CD10-positive leukemia and leukocyte counts less than 20 x 10(9) cells/L. Radiographic evidence of osteopenia and fractures was observed in 13% and 10% of children, respectively. The mean bone mineral content was normal. Bone mass measurement z scores correlated with plasma 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3 concentrations (r = 0.43, p < 0.05). Plasma calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and 25-hydroxyvitamin D3 levels were normal. Low plasma osteocalcin (mean +/- SD, 1.6 +/- 1.6 nmol/L) and 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3 (33.4 +/- 26.4 pmol/L) values were observed. Parathyroid hormone levels were low in 14% of children. Hypercalciuria was detected in 64% of children. Urinary deoxypyridinoline was lower (p < 0.01) than in age-matched control subjects. Histomorphometric measurements of iliac bone showed abnormalities in mineralization in the biopsy specimens from three of nine children.
Conclusion: Most children with ALL have alterations in bone metabolism and bone mass when first examined. These data suggest defective mineralization as the mechanism for decreased bone mass and implicate the leukemic process as causative.