Tumor cells alter the balanced process of bone formation and bone resorption mediated respectively by osteoblasts and osteoclasts, leading to the disruption of the normal equilibrium and resulting in a spectrum of osteolytic to osteoblastic lesions. This review will summarize research on molecules that play direct and essential roles in the differentiation and activity of osteoclasts, and the role of these molecules in bone destruction caused by cancer. Results from experimental models suggest that the Receptor Activator of NF-kB Ligand (RANKL), a member of the TNF superfamily is a common effector of bony lesions in osteolysis caused by primary and secondary bone tumors. Therefore, osteoclast represents an attractive target across a broad range of tumors that develop in bone. Elucidation of the mechanisms of RANKL interactions with its activator (RANK) and decoy (osteoprotegerin: OPG) receptors has enable the development of pharmacological inhibitors of RANKL (and of its signalling pathway) which have been recently patented, with potential for the treatment of cancer-induced bone disease. Blocking bone resorption by specific other drugs such as bisphosphonates, inhibitors of cathepsin K (the main enzyme involved in bone resorption mechanisms) or signalling pathways regulating osteoclast differentiation and activation is also a promising target for the treatment of osteolysis associated to bone tumors.
Keywords: Bone resorption, primary bone tumor, bone metastase, RANKL, bisphosphonate