Why cancer treatments cause bone loss


Researchers link it to a stress reponse.


Red and green lines represent new bone in this image of a normal mouse bone. 

Zhangting Yao

US researchers say they have found a driver of bone loss related to cancer treatment.

Working with mice, they have shown that radiation and chemotherapy can halt cell division in bone, which results in a stress response referred to as senescence.

According to their paper, published in the journal Cancer Research, cell senescence drives bone loss in female mice beyond that seen from the absence of estrogen alone. The process also occurs in males and is independent of cancer type.

The researchers all say such bone loss can be stopped by treating the mice with either of two investigational drugs being evaluated in clinical trials.

"Researchers have understood that this bone loss has to be due to more than just hormone loss," says senior author Sheila A Stewart, from the University of Washington, US.

"Cancer patients who receive chemotherapy and radiation lose a lot more bone than women with breast cancer treated with aromatase inhibitors, which eliminate estrogen. And children who have not yet gone through puberty, and aren't making much estrogen, also lose bone.

“We wanted to understand what causes bone loss beyond a lack of estrogen and whether we can do anything to stop it."

  1. https://www.nature.com/subjects/senescence
  2. https://cancerres.aacrjournals.org/
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