Low-dose gallium nitrate for prevention of osteolysis in myeloma: results of a pilot randomized study.
PURPOSE: Since osteolysis is a major cause of morbidity in myeloma, we conducted a pilot study to evaluate whether the addition of gallium nitrate to standard antimyeloma treatment could preserve or increase bone mass in patients with osteolytic disease. METHODS: Patients stabilized on cytotoxic therapy were randomized to treatment with gallium nitrate for 6 months, or to observation only for the first 6 months followed by gallium nitrate treatment during the subsequent 6 months. Gallium nitrate was administered in monthly cycles by daily subcutaneous injections (30 mg/m2/d) for 2 weeks, followed by 2 weeks with no therapy, supplemented by an intravenous infusion (100 mg/m2/d) for 5 days every other month. RESULTS: Paired 6-month comparisons were available for seven observation periods and 13 gallium nitrate treatment periods. Total-body calcium assessed by delayed-gamma neutron activation (DGNA) decreased in four of seven patients during observation, but increased in nine of 13 patients during gallium nitrate treatment; the mean difference in total-body calcium (TBCa) between the two groups at 6 months was 3%. Median regional bone density assessed by dual-photon absorptiometry (DPA) declined by 1.4% in patients under observation (range, +6.7% to -18.3%), but was unchanged during gallium nitrate treatment (median change, 0%; range, -10.5% to +14.4%). The group mean vertebral fracture index assessed by lateral spine x-rays decreased by 27% during observation compared with 2% during gallium nitrate treatment. Mean body height decreased by 0.57 inches in the observation group and .06 inches in the gallium nitrate group. Patient self-assessment of bone pain showed that seven of 12 gallium nitrate-treated patients rated themselves as experiencing major reductions in bone pain, compared with zero of seven patients who were observed. One episode of hypercalcemia occurred in a patient under observation. CONCLUSION: Adjuvant treatment with low-dose gallium nitrate attenuates the rate of bone loss in myeloma and may be useful for ameliorating the consequences of skeletal morbidity in patients with cancer-related osteolysis.