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J Pharm Biomed Anal. 2005 Feb 7;37(1):171-6.

Diagnostic value of bone remodeling markers in the diagnosis of bone metastases in patients with breast cancer.

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  • 1Second Department of Internal Medicine-Propaedeutic, Athens University Medical School, Attikon University Hospital, Athens, Greece.


Metastatic spread to bone is common in patients with breast cancer and its early detection is required for the better management of these patients. Several biochemical markers of bone remodeling have been recently developed, in order to assess metastatic bone disease with non radiologic methods. The pyridinolin cross-linked amino-terminal telopeptide of type I collagen (NTx) has been measured in serum and urine as a specific marker of bone collagen breakdown, while the bone-isoform of alkaline phosphatase (BAP) has been used to determine bone formation activity. Thirty-three consecutive ambulatory patients with metastatic breast cancer and bone metastases and 31 with extraskeletal metastases only, matched for age and menopausal status, were studied. Serum levels of NTx and BAP were measured by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays. The diagnostic accuracy of both markers was evaluated by receiver operating characteristic (ROC) analysis. Patients with bone metastases had significantly higher levels of NTx (37.0+/-36.9 nM BCE versus 23.5+/-21.0 nM BCE, P<0.05) and BAP (57.8+/-31.7 U/L versus 36.5+/-28.5 U/L, P<0.01) compared to those without bone metastases. NTx was positively correlated with BAP (R=0.340, P<0.01). The area under the ROC curve was 0.671 for NTx and 0.755 for BAP. Using a cut-off value of 29.7 nM BCE for NTx, specificity and sensitivity were 87.1% and 45.5%, respectively; in the case of BAP, using a cut-off value of 50.6 U/L, the specificity and sensitivity were 90.3% and 54.5%, respectively. In patients not receiving concomitant hormonal treatment, the area under the ROC curve was 0.724 for NTx and 0.822 for BAP; in this subgroup of patients, using a cut-off value of 30.0 nM BCE for NTx, the specificity and sensitivity were 96.2% and 47.1%, respectively, while using a cut-off value of 50.0 U/L for BAP, the corresponding percentages were 92.3% and 70.6%. Although serum NTx and BAP are quite specific, they are not sensitive enough to diagnose bone metastases in patients with advanced breast cancer. Their diagnostic accuracy, however, is considerably enhanced in patients not receiving hormonal therapy.

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