Promising New Therapeutic Approach For Bone Cancer Patients


A new therapeutic method that rebuilds and strengthens bone may mitigate the suffering of multiple myeloma patients.

Multiple myeloma is a cancer that causes progressive bone destruction, fractures, and frequently debilitating pain. The new treatment approach, demonstrated by an Australian-led research team, rebuilds bone tissue, and makes bones more fracture resistant.

The researchers tested a therapy that targets sclerostin, a protein that functions by inhibiting bone formation. It was theorized that by dampening sclerostin’s action, the bone loss that occurs with multiple myeloma could be reversed.

“The current treatment for myeloma-associated bone disease with bisphosphonate drugs prevents further bone loss, but it doesn't fix damaged bones, so patients continue to fracture,” said researcher Dr. Michelle McDonald. “We wanted to re-stimulate bone formation, and increase bone strength and resistance to fracture.”

The new method utilized an antibody that neutralizes the sclerostin protein. Earlier studies involving osteoporosis patients found these antibodies increased bone mass, and reduced incidence of fracture. The investigators used mouse models of multiple myeloma to test the anti-sclerostin antibody and discovered that it doubled the bone volume in some mice, and greatly increased fracture resistance.

“When we looked at the bones before and after treatment, the difference was remarkable-- we saw less lesions or ‘holes’ in the bones after anti-sclerostin treatment,” said McDonald. “These lesions are the primary cause of bone pain, so this is an extremely important result.”

Next, the researchers mixed the new antibody with zoledronic acid, the bisphosphonate drug currently used to treat myeloma bone disease. “Bisphosphonates work by preventing bone breakdown, so we combined zoledronic acid with the new anti-sclerostin antibody, that rebuilds bone. Together, the impact on bone thickness, strength and resistance to fracture was greater than either treatment alone,” says Dr McDonald.

The researchers are now looking forward to human trials for the antibody, and are hopeful there will be a positive response in most, if not all the patients, enhancing their quality of life.

Source: Garvan Institute
Photo credit: Hartwig HKD


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