Radiation therapy for soft tissue sarcomas and metastatic disease can adversely affect bone, leading to late-onset fragility fractures. Adjunct administration of bisphosphonates has been postulated as means of minimizing these adverse effects. Using a murine model of focal hindlimb irradiation, we examined the potential for zoledronic acid treatment to minimize the deleterious effects of localized radiotherapy (RTx) on bone. Mice received a single, unilateral hindlimb exposure of 20 Gy. Beginning 4 days prior to irradiation, and at 1, 2 and 3 weeks post-irradiation, animals were treated with zoledronic acid or saline/vehicle injections. Areal bone mineral density was assessed at 4 days, and 2, 4 and 12 weeks post-irradiation by dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA). Micro-computed tomography and axial compression testing were used to quantify changes in morphological and mechanical properties of femurs at 4 and 12 weeks post-irradiation. Radiation had differential effects on cortical and trabecular bone, increasing cortical bone mineral content (BMC), cortical bone volume (BV) and trabecular separation (Tb.Sp) while decreasing trabecular number (Tb.N) by 12 weeks after localized radiotherapy. Administration of zoledronic acid increased hindlimb areal bone mineral density in both the presence and absence of radiotherapy, increased cortical bone mineral content and bone volume, increased trabecular bone volume (BV/TV), increased trabecular number, increased trabecular thickness (Tb.Th), and decreased trabecular separation compared to irradiated and vehicle control femurs. Despite these improvements in morphology with zoledronic acid, no biomechanical advantage was observed. Further work is needed to define the role of bisphosphonates in prevention of post-irradiation fragility fractures.
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Vol. 180 • No. 1