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Host-derived RANKL is responsible for osteolysis in a C4-2 human prostate cancer xenograft model of experimental bone metastases

Colm Morrissey1, Paul L Kostenuik3, Lisha G Brown1, Robert L Vessella12 and Eva Corey1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Urology, University of Washington, Seattle, WA, USA

2 Puget Sound VA Medical Center, Seattle, WA, USA

3 Amgen Inc, Thousand Oaks, CA, USA

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BMC Cancer 2007, 7:148  doi:10.1186/1471-2407-7-148

Published: 3 August 2007



C4-2 prostate cancer (CaP) cells grown in mouse tibiae cause a mixed osteoblastic/osteolytic response with increases in osteoclast numbers and bone resorption. Administration of osteoprotegerin (OPG) blocks these increases, indicating the critical role of RANKL in osteolysis in this model. The objective of our study was to investigate whether RANKL expressed by tumor cells (human origin) directly stimulates osteolysis associated with the growth of these cells in bone or whether the increased osteolysis is caused by RANKL expressed by the host environment cells (murine origin). The relative contribution of tumor-vs. host-derived RANKL has been difficult to establish, even with human xenografts, because murine and human RANKL are both capable of stimulating osteolysis in mice, and the RANKL inhibitors used to date (OPG and RANK-Fc) inhibit human and murine RANKL.


To address this question we used a neutralizing, antibody (huRANKL MAb), which specifically neutralizes the biological activities of human RANKL and thereby the contribution of C4-2 derived RANKL in this tibial injection model of experimental bone metastases.


Administration of huRANKL MAb did not inhibit the osteolytic response of the bone to these cells, or affect the establishment and growth of the C4-2 tumors in this environment.


In conclusion, our results suggest that in this model, murine RANKL and not the tumor-derived human RANKL is the mediator of the osteolytic reaction associated with C4-2 growth in bone. We hypothesize that C4-2 cells express other factor/s inducing host production of RANKL, thereby driving tumor-associated osteolysis.