Approximately two-thirds of patients who receive the anticancer drug gallium nitrate develop mild hypocalcemia. To evaluate the mechanism of drug-induced hypocalcemia, we tested the effects of gallium nitrate upon in vitro release of 45Ca++ from explanted fetal rat bones. The drug significantly inhibited 45Ca++ release in response to stimulation with both parathyroid hormone and a lymphokine preparation with osteoclast activating factor activity. The inhibitory effects on bone resorption were both time- and dose-dependent. Later, in a pilot study, we treated 10 patients who had cancer-related hypercalcemia with gallium nitrate administered by continuous infusion. All patients responded by a reduction of total serum calcium to normal or subnormal concentrations (13.8 +/- 1.05 mg/dl, mean +/- SD pretreatment, to 8.03 +/- 1.03 mg/dl, mean posttreatment nadir). Our results indicate that gallium nitrate effectively treats cancer-related hypercalcemia and that it probably acts by inhibiting calcium release from bone.


R P Warrell Jr, R S Bockman, C J Coonley, M Isaacs, H Staszewski


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