Skeletal morbidity in lung cancer patients with bone metastases: demonstrating the need for early diagnosis and treatment with bisphosphonates

Corey Langer, Vera Hirsh
Lung Cancer: Journal of the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer 2010, 67 (1): 4-11

BACKGROUND: The skeleton is one of the most frequent sites for metastases from non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), and skeletal-related events (SREs) can decrease quality of life (QOL). However, limited guidance exists regarding the diagnosis and treatment of bone metastases in patients with NSCLC.

METHODS: Data on the burden of skeletal morbidity and the diagnosis and treatment of bone metastases in patients with NSCLC were obtained from reviewing the published literature (PubMed) and presentations and abstracts from recent oncology congresses.

RESULTS: Bone metastases are common but underdiagnosed in patients with NSCLC. Most NSCLC patients with bone metastases develop > or =1 SRE during their lifetimes. As survival improves with new treatment modalities, the prevalence of SREs is likely to increase. Direct costs of SREs and their subsequent supportive care are approximately $28,000 per patient. Although bone metastases often are not diagnosed until after the onset of symptoms, early treatment can delay the onset of potentially debilitating SREs. In patients with NSCLC and other solid tumors (n=773), zoledronic acid (ZOL; 4 mg via 15-min infusion every 3 weeks) delayed the median time to first on-study SRE by >80 days compared with placebo (p=0.009). Moreover, ZOL significantly reduced the ongoing risk of SREs by 32% versus placebo (p=0.016).

CONCLUSIONS: Skeletal morbidity is an important concern in patients with NSCLC. The incidence of SREs is expected to increase as survival improves in this setting. Prevention of SREs with therapies such as ZOL may preserve patients' QOL and possibly reduce healthcare costs.

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