Bone metastasis is a serious complication in patients with lung cancer, occurring in up to 40% of patients. Tumor cell–mediated osteolysis occurs ultimately through induction of RANK ligand (RANKL) within the bone stroma although this hypothesis has not been tested extensively in the setting of non–small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC). By using two novel NSCLC bone metastasis mouse models, we examined the effects of RANKL inhibition on osteolysis and tumor progression.
We treated mice bearing skeletal NSCLC tumors with osteoprotegerin-Fc (OPG-Fc) to assess whether osteoclast inhibition through RANKL inhibition would affect bone metastases at early or late stages of bone colonization. Progression of skeletal tumor was determined by radiography, longitudinal bioluminescent imaging, and histological analyses.
OPG-Fc reduced development and progression of radiographically evident osteolytic lesions and also significantly reduced skeletal tumor progression in both NSCLC bone metastasis models. In the H1299 human NSCLC bone metastasis model, OPG-Fc plus docetaxel in combination resulted in significantly greater inhibition of skeletal tumor growth compared with either single agent alone. The observed ability of RANKL inhibition to reduce NSCLC osteolytic bone destruction or skeletal tumor burden was associated with decreases in tumor-associated osteoclasts.
These results demonstrate that RANKL is required for the development of tumor-induced osteolytic bone destruction caused by NSCLC cells in vivo. RANKL inhibition also reduced skeletal tumor burden, presumably through the indirect mechanism of blocking tumor-induced osteoclastogenesis and resultant production of growth factors and calcium from the bone microenvironment. RANKL inhibition also provided an additive benefit to docetaxel treatment by augmenting the reduction of tumor burden.