Metastatic bone pain: treatment options with an emphasis on bisphosphonates
The skeleton is the main site affected by metastases and breast cancer is the most frequent tumor to invade bone. The assessment of bone metastases is difficult and biochemical markers of bone formation (BFMs) could be a promising alternative. Although the essential role of osteoblasts in the metastatic process of bone destruction is now well established, little attention has been paid to BFMs. We conducted a Medline search for studies about BFMs in breast cancer. Our review allows us to conclude that BFMs have high specificity but low sensitivity for the diagnosis of bone metastases. The available biochemical markers cannot replace imaging techniques for the diagnosis of bone metastases. Several studies indicate that BFM serum levels reflect total tumor burden in the skeleton. BFM levels are higher in patients with blastic lesions compared to those with lytic lesions. Serial measurements of BFMs could be useful for the clinical assessment of response to antineoplastic treatment or to bisphosphonate therapy. Besides markers of bone resorption, biochemical markers of bone formation are a promising alternative for the assessment of metastatic bone disease, but large prospective studies are needed to address this important issue. (Int J Biol Markers 2005; 20: 146-55).