OPG (osteoprotegerin), a secreted member of the TNF (tumour necrosis factor) receptor superfamily, has a variety of biological functions which include the regulation of bone turnover. OPG is a potent inhibitor of osteoclastic bone resorption and has been investigated as a potential therapeutic for the treatment of both osteoporosis and tumour-induced bone disease. Indeed, in murine models of cancer-induced bone disease, inhibition of osteoclastic activity by OPG was also associated with a reduction in tumour burden. The discovery that OPG can bind to and inhibit the activity of TRAIL (TNF-related apoptosis-inducing ligand) triggered extensive research into the potential role of OPG in the regulation of tumour cell survival. A number of reports from studies using in vitro models have shown that OPG protects tumour cells from the effects of TRAIL, thereby possibly providing tumour cells that produce OPG with a survival advantage. However, the ability of OPG to act as a tumour cell survival factor remains to be verified using appropriate in vivo systems. A third area of interest has been the use of OPG as a prognostic marker in various cancer types, including myeloma, breast and prostate cancer. This review provides an overview of the role of OPG in cancer, both in cancer-induced bone disease and in tumour growth and survival.

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