The prevalence and incidence of pain and skeletal complications of metastatic bone disease such as pathologic fractures, spinal cord compression and hypercalcemia is high and an important contributor to morbidity, poor performance status and decreased quality of life. Moreover, pathologic fractures are associated with increased risk of death in people with disseminated malignancies. Therefore, prevention of pain and fractures are important goals in men with prostate cancer at risk for skeletal complications.
To assess the effects of bisphosphonates in men with bone metastases from prostate cancer.
We identified studies by electronic search of bibliographic databases including the Cochrane Controlled Trials Register and MEDLINE on 13 July 2017 and trial registries. We handsearched the Proceedings of American Society of Clinical Oncology (to July 2017) and reference lists of all eligible trials identified. This is an update of a review last published in 2006.
We included randomized controlled studies comparing the effectiveness of bisphosphonates in men with bone metastases from prostate cancer.
Data collection and analysis
Two review authors independently extracted data and assessed the quality of trials. We defined the proportion of participants with pain response as the primary end point; secondary outcomes were skeletal-related events, mortality, quality of life, adverse events, analgesic consumption and disease progression. We assessed the quality of the evidence for the main outcomes using the GRADE approach.
We included 18 trials reporting on 4843 participants comparing the effect of bisphosphonate administration to control regimens.
Primary outcome: there was no clear difference in the proportion of participants with pain response (RR 1.15, 95% CI 0.93 to 1.43; P = 0.20; I2 = 0%; 3 trials; 876 participants; low quality evidence). In absolute terms, bisphosphonates resulted in a pain response in 40 more participants per 1000 (19 fewer to 114 more).
Secondary outcomes: bisphosphonates probably reduced the incidence of skeletal-related events in participants with prostate cancer metastatic to bone (RR 0.87, 95% CI 0.81 to 0.94; P = 0.27; I2 = 19%; 9 trials; 3153 participants; moderate quality evidence). In absolute terms, bisphosphonates resulted in 58 fewer SREs per 1000 (85 fewer to 27 fewer).
We found no clinically relevant differences in mortality (RR 0.97, 95% CI 0.91 to 1.04; P = 0.43; I2 = 1%; 9 trials; 2450 participants; moderate quality evidence). In absolute terms, bisphosphonates resulted in 16 fewer deaths per 1000 (47 fewer to 21 more).
Outcome definition of quality of life and the measurement tools varied greatly across trials and we were unable to extract any quantitative data for meta-analysis.
Bisphosphonates probably increased the number of participants affected by nausea (RR 1.19, 95% CI 1.00 to 1.41; P = 0.05; I2 = 0%; 9 trials; 3008 participants; moderate quality evidence). In absolute terms, bisphosphonates resulted in seven more cases of nausea per 1000 (0 fewer to 14 more). Bisphosphonates probably increased the number of renal adverse events (RR 1.65, 95% CI 1.11 to 2.46; P = 0.01; I2 = 0%; 7 trials; 1794 participants; moderate quality evidence). In absolute terms, bisphosphonates resulted in 22 more renal adverse events per 1000 (4 more to 50 more). We found no clear difference in the number of participants with osteonecrosis of the jaw between groups (RR 1.92, 95% CI 0.75 to 4.90; P = 0.17; I2 = 0%; 5 trials; 1626 participants; very low quality evidence). In absolute terms, bisphosphonates resulted in seven more cases with osteonecrosis of the jaw per 1000 (2 fewer to 29 more). We observed no clinically relevant difference in the proportion of participants with decreased analgesic consumption (RR 1.19, 95% CI 0.87 to 1.63; P = 0.28; I2 = 37%; 4 trials; 416 participants). Statistical analysis revealed that bisphosphonates probably reduced the number of participants with disease progression (RR 0.94, 95% CI 0.90 to 0.98; P = 0.006; I2 = 0%; 7 trials; 2115 participants; moderate quality evidence). In absolute terms, bisphosphonates resulted in 36 fewer cases of disease progression per 1000 (71 fewer to 7 fewer).
Findings of our predefined subgroup and sensitivity analyses were no different from those of the primary analyses.
Based on low quality evidence, there may be no clinically relevant difference in the proportion of men with pain response between bisphosphonates and control regimens in men with bone metastases from prostate cancer. Bisphosphonates probably decrease the number of skeletal-related events and disease progression. These benefits need to be weighed against the increased risk of renal impairment and nausea in men receiving bisphosphonates. Future studies should explicitly evaluate patient important outcomes such as quality of life and pain by using standardized and comparable assessment tools.