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Doxycycline and other tetracyclines in the treatment of bone metastasis

Saikali, Zeinaa; Singh, Gurmita b


The tetracycline family includes tetracycline, doxycycline and minocycline, all of which have been used as antibiotics effectively for decades. New uses emerged for these compounds after their effect on mitochondrial function was discovered. Cytostatic and cytotoxic activity of these compounds was shown against cell lines of various tumor origins. In addition, tetracyclines and chemically modified tetracyclines inhibit the activity of several matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs). Given the importance of these enzymes in tumor cell invasion and metastatic ability, the potential use of tetracyclines in cancer therapy needed to be investigated. Col-3, a chemically modified tetracycline, is now the subject of clinical trials in cancer patients. However, the potential of tetracyclines in cancer therapy takes on an added dimension in the bone. MMPs have been shown to be important mediators of metastasis formation in the bone, contributing largely to the morbidity of breast cancer and prostate cancer patients. The natural osteotropism of tetracyclines would allow them to be highly effective in the inhibition of MMPs produced by osteoclasts or tumor cells in the bone. This hypothesis has now been confirmed by experimental evidence showing that doxycycline reduces tumor burden in a mouse model of breast cancer-derived osteolytic bone metastasis. This effect is likely due to a combination of multiple roles of doxycycline, including MMP inhibition and a negative effect on osteoclast differentiation and survival. These encouraging results have now paved the way for an ongoing trial of doxycycline in early combination therapy for breast cancer and prostate cancer patients.

aDepartment of Pathology and Molecular Medicine, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada

bHamilton Regional Cancer Center, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada

Sponsorship: This research was supported by a Canadian Breast Cancer Research Alliance grant to G. S.

Correspondence to G. Singh, Hamilton Regional Cancer Center, 699 Concession Street, Hamilton, Ontario L8 V 5C2, Canada.

Tel: +1 905 387-9711; fax: +1 905 575-6330;


Received 29 August 2003 Accepted 4 September 2003

© 2003 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.