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Nat Clin Pract Oncol. 2005 Oct;2(10):504-17; quiz 1 p following 533.

Clinical use of markers of bone turnover in metastatic bone disease.

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Bone Research Program, ANZAC Research Institute, Sydney, Australia.


Bone metastases profoundly perturb normal bone remodeling. Biochemical markers of bone turnover have been shown to reflect these tumor-induced changes in bone remodeling and might therefore be useful in the diagnosis and follow-up of patients with malignant bone disease. Most markers of bone turnover, particularly those of bone resorption, are elevated in patients with established bone metastases. While this might indicate a role for bone markers as diagnostic tools in cancer patients, the available evidence does not provide any final conclusions as to the accuracy and validity of the markers presently used in the early diagnosis of bone metastases. Markers of bone resorption respond promptly and profoundly to bisphosphonate and antineoplastic therapy, and this response is associated with a favorable clinical outcome. Most markers, however, have been more useful in groups of patients monitored in clinical studies than in studies of individuals. While this makes them a good tool for drug development, it remains unknown whether the use of bone markers in a routine clinical setting has any defined beneficial effects on overall outcome in cancer patients. In particular, no study has addressed the question of whether patients with bone metastases should be treated according to their rate of bone turnover and what the treatment goals are in this respect. While it is unlikely that bone-turnover markers have sufficient diagnostic or prognostic value when used in isolation, the combination of these markers with other diagnostic techniques might be the way forward to improve the clinical assessment of patients with cancers of the bone.

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