Supportive Care in Cancer

, Volume 16, Issue 10, pp 1105-1115

First online:

Metastatic bone pain: treatment options with an emphasis on bisphosphonates

  • Roger von MoosAffiliated withMedical Oncology, Kantonsspital Graubünden Email author 
  • , Florian StrasserAffiliated withPalliative Medicine Section Oncology, Department of Internal Medicine, Kantonsspital
  • , Silke GillessenAffiliated withOncology–Haematology, Kantonsspital
  • , Kathrin ZauggAffiliated withDepartment of Radiation Oncology, University Hospital

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One of the key targets for metastatic cancer cells is the skeleton. Once metastatic cells are established within the bone matrix, skeletal integrity becomes increasingly compromised. Bone lesions lead to various complications, including bone pain, fractures and spinal cord compression.

Mechanisms of bone pain

Bone pain is debilitating and affects quality of life of the patient. In addition, it increases the use of health care resources. Many patients with metastatic bone disease experience substantial bone pain despite state-of-the-art systemic analgesic treatment. Incident pain is the predominant pain syndrome.

Treatment options for bone pain

Typically, this syndrome requires moderate baseline analgesia with increased on-demand doses. Other techniques for treating bone pain, including radiation therapy, neuraxial application of analgesics, nerve blocks and local stabilisation procedures, should be considered. In addition, therapy with bisphosphonates targeting bone-specific pain is an important strategy. This review discusses the various management options for bone pain arising from metastatic bone disease.


Metastatic bone disease Skeletal-related events Bone pain Bisphosphonates Analgesic