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What Is Denosumab Used For?

Denosumab for Cancer-Related Bone Problems

Cancer can affect the bones. Cancer from other parts of the body can spread to the bones, or cancer can start in the bones (such as with multiple myeloma). Either way, cancer can wear away the bone, leading to pain, broken bones, and the need for bone surgery or radiation. If the spinal bones are affected, this can lead to pressure on the spine, causing pain, unusual sensations, loss of bowel or bladder control, or even paralysis.
Xgeva is approved to help prevent bone damage (and complications due to that damage) due to solid tumor cancers (such as breast, prostate, or lung cancer, among many others) that have spread to the bone. These are known as cancers with bone metastases. The complications that result are known as skeletal-related events and may include:
  • Broken bones (fractures)
  • Surgery to repair broken bones
  • Radiation to relieve bone pain
  • Pressure on the spinal cord (spinal cord compression).
Notably, unlike some other medications, Xgeva is not approved to prevent or delay bone damage due to multiple myeloma, a cancer that affects plasma cells in the bone marrow.

How Does It Work?

Denosumab is a manufactured antibody that is designed specifically to bind to a protein known as receptor activator of nuclear factor kappa-B ligand (RANKL). Denosumab prevents RANKL from activating the RANK receptor on the surface of osteoclast cells (as well as immature cells that will eventually become osteoclast cells). Osteoclasts are bone cells that are responsible for the breakdown of bone. Denosumab slows down the formation, activity, and survival of osteoclast cells, thereby decreasing bone breakdown.

Is This Medication Safe for Children?

This drug is not approved for use in children. Talk to your healthcare provider about the benefits and risks of using denosumab in children. Based on the results of animal studies, it is thought that this medication may decrease bone growth and tooth eruption in young children.
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