Calcified Tissue International

, Volume 75, Issue 1, pp 71–77 | Cite as

Bisphosphonates Induce Apoptosis of Stromal Tumor Cells in Giant Cell Tumor of Bone

  • Y. Y. Cheng
  • L. Huang
  • K. M. Lee
  • J. K. Xu
  • M. H. Zheng
  • S. M. Kumta


Giant cell tumour of bone (GCT) is an aggressive primary neoplasm that results in the production of osteolytic lesions. Stromal cells, which form the main neoplastic component of this tumor, regulate the formation of osleoclast-like giant cells that are ultimately responsible for bone destruction. Bisphosphonates prevent bone resorption by inhibiting osteoclast activity and promoting osteoclast apoptosis, and they have been known to induce apoptosis of primary neoplastic cells such as those in breast and prostate cancers. We hypothesized that in bisphosphonates may induce apoptosis not only in osteoclast-like giant cells but also in neoplastic stromal cells of GCT both in vitro and in vivo. Twelve patients with GCT were treated with weekly injections of pamidronate for a period of 6 weeks prior to surgery. GCT specimens were collected at the time of biopsy and during definitive surgery. TUNEL assay was used to evaluate apoptotic DNA fragmentation in cells. In addition, twelve GCT primary cultures from these patients were treated with zoledronate, pamidronate, or alendronate for 48 hours at different doses (3, 30, or 150 μM) and subjected to apoptosis assay by flow cytometry following fluorescent Annexin-V labeling. The results showed that pamidronate significantly induced apoptosis in both osteoclast-like giant cells and stromal tumor cells, in vivo. All three bisphosphonates caused substantial apoptosis of stromal tumor cells in cultures. Zoledronate was the most potent reagent, resulting in an average cell death of 27.41% at 150 μM, followed by pamidronate (22.23%) and alendronate (15.3%). Our observations suggest that these drugs may be considered as potential adjuvants in the treatment of GCT.


Giant cell tumor of bone (GCT) Stromal cell Bisphosphonates Apoptosis 



This study was supported by grants from the Chinese University of Hong Kong (Ref No. 2040918 and 2003.1.065) to Prof. S. M. Kumta. We are grateful to Dr. K. Li at Department of Paediatrics, the Chinese University of Hong Kong, for her guidance of the flow cytometry analysis. Alendronate was, as aforementioned, a kind gift from Merck Sharp and Dohme (Ireland) Ltd.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Y. Y. Cheng
    • 1
  • L. Huang
    • 1
  • K. M. Lee
    • 1
  • J. K. Xu
    • 2
  • M. H. Zheng
    • 2
  • S. M. Kumta
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Orthopaedics and TraumatologyChinese University of Hong KongShatinHong Kong SAR
  2. 2.Department of Orthopaedic SurgeryUniversity of Western Australia QE II Medical CentreNedlands, Western Australia

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