Expression of receptor activator of nuclear factor κ-B ligand (RANKL) in neoplasms of dogs and cats

Anne M. Barger, Timothy M. Fan, Louis Philippe De Lorimier, Ian T. Sprandel, Kristen O'Dell-Anderson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Receptor activator of nuclear factor κ-B (RANK), RANK-ligand (RANKL), and the soluble decoy receptor osteoprotegerin (OPG) form a key axis modulating osteoclastogenesis. In health, RANKL-expressing bone stromal cells and osteoblasts activate osteoclasts through RANK ligation, resulting in homeostatic bone resorption. Skeletal tumors of dogs and cats, whether primary or metastatic, may express RANKL and directly induce malignant osteolysis. Hypothesis: Bone malignancies of dogs and cats may express RANKL, thereby contributing to pathologic bone resorption and pain. Furthermore, relative RANKL expression in bone tumors may correlate with radiographic characteristics of bone pathology. Animals: Forty-two dogs and 6 cats with spontaneously-occurring tumors involving bones or soft tissues were evaluated. Methods: A polyclonal anti-human RANKL antibody was validated for use in canine and feline cells by flow cytometry and immunocytochemistry. Fifty cytologic specimens were collected from bone and soft tissue tumors of 48 tumor-bearing animals and assessed for RANKL expression. In 15 canine osteosarcoma (OSA) samples, relative RANKL expression was correlated with radiographic characteristics of bone pathology. Results: Expression of RANKL by neoplastic cells was identified in 32/44 canine and 5/6 feline tumor samples. In 15 dogs with OSA, relative RANKL expression did not correlate with either radiographic osteolysis or bone mineral density as assessed by dual energy x-ray absorptiometry. Conclusions and Clinical Importance: In dogs and cats, tumors classically involving bone and causing pain, often may express RANKL. Confirming RANKL expression in tumors is a necessary step toward the rational institution of novel therapies targeting malignant osteolysis via RANKL antagonism.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)133-140
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of veterinary internal medicine
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2007


  • Bone pain
  • Cancer
  • Companion animals
  • Dual energy x-ray absorptiometry
  • Immunocytochemistry
  • Malignant osteolysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • veterinary(all)


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