Osteonecrosis of the jaw. A newly emerging site-specific osseous pathology in patients with cancer treated with bisphosphonates. Report of five cases and review of the literature

Cellular and Molecular Biology. 2007;53 Suppl:OL965-80. [Link]

Cavanna L, Bertè R, Arcari A, Mordenti P, Pagani R, Vallisa D.

Department of Medical Oncology and Hematology, Hospital of Piacenza, Italy.


Background: Bisphosphonates are commonly used as standard care in the management of patients with advanced-stage cancer involving bone. There has recently been growing concern that the use of bisphosphonates is associated with osteonecrosis of the jaw (ONJ).

Methods: Between 2001 and 2005, five patients with ONJ associated with pamidronate and zoledronate therapy were diagnosed at our department. The patients had breast cancer, renal carcinoma, mesothelioma, and multiple myeloma, all involving bone. The literature was reviewed.

Results: The duration of bisphosphonate therapy before presentation of ONJ ranged from 21 to 36 months. The lesions were localized to the mandible (n=3) and maxilla (n=2). All of the patients presented with pain and exposed bone; in two of them, symptoms began after tooth extraction. A review of the literature through March 2006 identified more than 250 reported cases of ONJ.

Conclusions: The findings in our patients, combined with the literature review, suggest that: (1) the most common clinical presentation of ONJ is pain and exposed bone of the mandible or maxilla; (2) for patients who develop ONJ, conservative, non-surgical treatment is strongly recommended; (3) clinical dental examination and a panoramic jaw radiograph should be performed before patients begin bisphosphonate therapy; (4) dental treatment and other oral procedures should be completed before initiating bisphosphonate therapy; (5) patients should be informed and instructed on the importance of maintaining good oral hygiene and having regular dental assessment; and (6) the medical community needs to be aware of the association between bisphosphonate usage and ONJ so that unnecessary and harmful surgical procedures can be avoided.

Keywords: Osteonecrosis, Jaw, ONJ, Cancer metastasis, Bisphosphonates, Mandible