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Drugs Today (Barc). 2002 Feb;38(2):91-102.

The role of osteoclastic activity in prostate cancer skeletal metastases.

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Unit for Laboratory Animal Medicine and Department of Pathology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109-0940, USA.


Metastasis of prostate cancer to bone is a common complication of progressive prostate cancer. Skeletal metastases are often associated with severe pain and thus demand therapeutic interventions. Although often characterized as osteoblastic, prostate cancer skeletal metastases usually have an underlying osteoclastic component. Advances in osteoclast biology and pathophysiology have led toward defining putative therapeutic targets to attack tumor-induced osteolysis. Several factors have been found to be important in tumor-induced promotion of osteoclast activity. One key factor is the protein receptor activator of nuclear factor-kappa B ligand (RANKL), which is required to induce osteoclastogenesis. RANKL is produced by prostate cancer bone metastases, enabling these metastases to induce osteolysis through osteoclast activation. Another factor, osteoprotegerin, is a soluble decoy receptor for RANKL and inhibits RANKL-induced osteoclastogenesis. Osteoprotegerin has been shown in murine models to inhibit tumor-induced osteolysis. In addition to RANKL, parathyroid hormone-related protein and interleukin-6 are produced by prostate cancer cells and can promote osteoclastogenesis. Finally, matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) are secreted by prostate cancer cells and promote osteolysis primarily through degradation of the nonmineralized bone matrix. MMP inhibitors have been shown to diminish tumor establishment in bone in murine models. Thus, many factors derived from prostate cancer metastases can promote osteolysis, and these factors may serve as therapeutic targets. The importance of osteoclasts in the establishment and progression of skeletal metastases has led to clinical evaluation of therapeutic agents to target them for slowing metastatic progression. Bisphosphonates are a class of compounds that decrease osteoclast life span by promoting their apoptosis. The bisphosphonate pamidronate has proven clinical efficacy for relieving bone pain associated with breast cancer metastases and has a promising outlook for prostate cancer metastases. Another bisphosphonate, zoledronic acid, appears to directly target prostate cancer cells in addition to diminishing osteoclast activity at the metastatic site. In addition to bisphosphonates, other novel therapies based on studies that delineate mechanisms of skeletal metastases establishment and progression will be developed in the near future.

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