Understanding treatments for bone loss and bone metastases in patients with prostate cancer: a practical review and guide for the clinician

Celestia S Higano
Urologic Clinics of North America 2004, 31 (2): 331-52
Prostate cancer patients are at risk for developing bone loss and bone metastases. Clinicians prescribing ADT should appreciate the potential effects of ADT on BMD as well as the morbidity and mortality that can result from osteoporotic fractures. Measures to address the evaluation of patients and when to treat patients with significant bone loss have been discussed. Bisphosphonates effectively prevent loss of BMD in prostate cancer patients. Treatment of prostate cancer patients with established bone metastases with zoledronic acid should be considered strongly based on the results of the Saad study and other studies of patients with bone metastases with other malignancies. Zoledronic acid is approved by the US FDA for use in men with metastatic hormone-refractory prostate cancer and in the European Union for any patient with bone metastases, including prostate cancer patients,because of the beneficial impact of zoledronic acid on skeletal-related events. There is no validated method to determine which patients might benefit most from bisphosphonate therapy in this setting. Many questions about the use of bisphosphonate therapy in men with prostate cancer must be addressed, both in terms of the use in bone loss and bone metastases. These questions include: What is the optimal timing of therapy? Which bisphosphonate is best? What is the best dose and dose schedule? Do bisphosphonates effectively decrease skeletal fracture rates in patients with osteoporosis? How long should patients receive therapy? Are bisphosphonate "holidays" warranted? What are the long-term skeletal and renal toxicities? Is there a role for sequencing bisphosphonate therapy either before or after chemotherapy? Is bisphosphonate therapy synergistic with certain chemotherapy or other bone-targeted therapies? Which patients are the most likely to benefit from bisphosphonate therapy? What are clinically significant endpoints of bisphosphonate trials in patients with metastatic disease? Does inhibiting bone turnover also inhibit formation of bone metastases? Preliminary work in these areas has been completed, but more questions than answers are available. Given the rising costs of health care, it is imperative that these questions be addressed to best use the health care dollar while offering high-risk patients the best available therapy. At present, no data suggest that bisphosphonates should be used routinely to prevent BMD loss in men with normal BMD or to prevent the development of bone metastases in men with biochemical relapse. Continuing trials may give us guidance in the future.


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