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J Neurosurg Spine. 2012 Apr;16(4):365-72. doi: 10.3171/2011.12.SPINE11496. Epub 2012 Jan 20.

Delayed onset of paralysis and slowed tumor growth following in situ placement of recombinant human bone morphogenetic protein 2 within spine tumors in a rat model of metastatic breast cancer.

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  • 1Department of Neurosurgery, The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD, USA.



Recombinant human bone morphogenetic proteins (rhBMPs) are FDA-approved for specific spinal fusion procedures, but their use is contraindicated in spine tumor resection beds because of an unclear interaction between tumor tissue and such growth factors. Interestingly, a number of studies have suggested that BMPs may slow the growth of adenocarcinomas in vitro, and these lesions represent the majority of bony spine tumors. In this study, the authors hypothesized that rhBMP-2 placed in an intraosseous spine tumor in the rat could suppress tumor and delay the onset of paresis in such animals.


Twenty-six female nude athymic rats were randomized into an experimental group (Group 1) or a positive control group (Group 2). Group 1 (tumor + 15 μg rhBMP-2 sponge, 13 rats) underwent transperitoneal exposure and implantation of breast adenocarcinoma (CRL-1666) into the L-6 spine segment, followed by the implantation of a bovine collagen sponge impregnated with 15 μg of rhBMP-2. Group 2 (tumor + 0.9% NaCl sponge, 13 rats) underwent transperitoneal exposure and tumor implantation in the lumbar spine but no local treatment with rhBMP-2. An additional 8 animals were randomized into 2 negative control groups (Groups 3 and 4). Group 3 (15 μg rhBMP-2 sponge, 4 rats) and Group 4 (0.9% NaCl sponge, 4 rats) underwent transperitoneal exposure of the lumbar spine along with the implantation of rhBMP-2- and saline-impregnated bovine collagen sponges, respectively. Neither of the negative control groups was implanted with tumor. The Basso-Beattie-Bresnahan (BBB) scale was used to monitor daily motor function regression and the time to paresis (BBB score ≤ 7).


In comparison with the positive control animals (Group 2), the experimental animals (Group 1) had statistically significant longer mean (25.8 ± 12.2 vs 13 ± 1.4 days, p ≤ 0.001) and median (20 vs 13 days) times to paresis. In addition, the median survival time was significantly longer in the experimental animals (20 vs 13.5 days, p ≤ 0.0001). Histopathological analysis demonstrated bone growth and tumor inhibition in the experimental animals, whereas bone destruction and cord compression were observed in the positive control animals. Neither of the negative control groups (Groups 3 and 4) demonstrated any evidence of neurological deterioration, morbidity, or cord compromise on either gross or histological analysis.


This study shows that the local administration of rhBMP-2 (15 μg, 10 μl of 1.5-mg/ml solution) in a rat spine tumor model of breast cancer not only fails to stimulate local tumor growth, but also decreases local tumor growth and delays the onset of paresis in rats. This preclinical experiment is the first to show that the local placement of rhBMP-2 in a spine tumor bed may slow tumor progression and delay associated neurological decline.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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