Bisphosphonates are used routinely to reduce bone-related events in breast cancer patients with bone metastasis. We evaluated the effects of zoledronic acid, a third generation, nitrogen-containing bisphosphonate, to prevent bone metastasis in breast cancer. Zoledronic acid or vehicle alone was administered to nude mice either simultaneously or after intracardiac injection of human breast cancer MDA-MB-231 cells. Nude mice treated with zoledronic acid at early time points showed a lower incidence of bone metastases than did vehicle-treated nude mice, but these differences were not statistically significant. Only 37.5% of mice treated with zoledronic acid at the time of tumor cell inoculation developed bone metastases compared to over 51.8% of mice receiving vehicle alone (P = 0.304). Cell count of apoptosis confirmed by immunohistochemical staining in metastatic bone tissue significantly increased in the zoledronic acid-treated groups compared to non-treated group (1,018.3 vs 282.0; P = 0.046). However, metastatic tumor cells, which invade soft tissue around the bone, did not show extensive apoptosis; there were no differences between the zoledronic acid-treated and control groups. These results suggest that zoledronic acid increases apoptosis of metastatic breast tumor cells in the bone and could therefore reduce metastatic tumor burden. These results support the use of zoledronic acid to reduce the incidence of bone metastasis in breast cancer.
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