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New osteoporosis drug appears to reduce bone loss in mice with oral cancer

September 26, 2015

The retention of bone was attributed at least in part to the drug's ability to reduce the number of activated osteoclasts by 52 percent at sites where the tumor and bone met. Osteoclasts are the cells that are responsible for bone resorption.

The cancer cells that were injected into the mice had been altered to contain a protein that creates light so the scientists could track development of the tumors. At day 28, the tumors treated with zoledronic acid were, on average, at least 14 percent smaller than were tumors that were left untreated.

"With less bone resorption, there might be less stimulation of the tumor," Rosol said. "So if you slow down bone loss, it's not as suitable an environment for the cancer to progress. We were not trying to cure the cancer, but what we're showing is that even with no other therapy than zoledronic acid, the disease is better."

Rosol also noted that in the course of this research, an Ohio State graduate student developed the first mouse model of oral squamous cell carcinoma that leads to bone loss. Chelsea Martin, lead author of the study and a doctoral student in veterinary biosciences at the time, determined which kinds of cancer cells to use and where to inject them to produce the same cancer development in mice that is experienced by human patients.

"This new model mimics the disease very well," Rosol said.

It turns out that oral squamous cell carcinoma is also a common disease in cats. Knowing this, Martin, now a postdoctoral researcher in molecular and cellular biochemistry at Ohio State, produced the animal disease model by injecting oral cancer cells from a cat into the gums above the front teeth of mice whose immune systems were suppressed.

Rosol and colleagues plan to continue the research by testing the effects of zoledronic acid when it is combined with anticancer drugs in animals with head and neck cancer.

Source: Ohio State University