Oncogenic osteomalacia

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Oncogenic osteomalacia
Other names: Tumor-induced osteomalacia
a) Café au lait spots b) Genu valgum. c) nodules on forearm

Oncogenic osteomalacia also known as oncogenic hypophosphatemic osteomalacia, is an uncommon disorder resulting in increased renal phosphate excretion, hypophosphatemia and osteomalacia. It may be caused by a phosphaturic mesenchymal tumor.

Signs and symptoms

Adult patients have worsening myalgias, bone pains and fatigue which are followed by recurrent fractures. Children present with difficulty in walking, stunted growth and deformities of the skeleton (features of rickets).[1]


Tumor-induced osteomalacia is usually referred to as a paraneoplastic phenomenon, however, the tumors are usually benign and the symptomatology is due to osteomalacia or rickets.[2] A benign mesenchymal or mixed connective tissue tumor (usually phosphaturic mesenchymal tumor[3] and hemangiopericytoma) are the most common associated tumors.[4] Association with mesenchymal malignant tumors, such as osteosarcoma and fibrosarcoma, has also been reported.[4] Locating the tumor can prove to be difficult and may require whole body MRI. Some of the tumors express somatostatin receptors and may be located by octreotide scanning.

A phosphaturic mesenchymal tumor is an extremely rare benign neoplasm of soft tissue and bone that inappropriately produces fibroblast growth factor 23. This tumor may cause tumor-induced osteomalacia, a paraneoplastic syndrome, by the secretion of FGF23, which has phosphaturic activity (by inhibition of renal tubular reabsorption of phosphate and renal conversion of 25-hydroxyvitamin D to 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D). The paraneoplastic effects can be debilitating and are only reversed on discovery and surgical resection of the tumor.[4]


FGF23 (fibroblast growth factor 23) inhibits phosphate transport in the renal tubule and reduces calcitriol production by the kidney. Tumor production of FGF23,[5] Secreted frizzled-related protein 4[6] and matrix extracellular phosphoglycoprotein (MEPE)[7] have all been identified as possible causative agents for the hypophosphatemia.


Biochemical studies reveal hypophosphatemia (low blood phosphate), elevated alkaline phosphatase and low serum 1, 25 dihydroxyvitamin D levels. Routine laboratory tests may not include serum phosphate levels and this can result in considerable delay in diagnosis. Even when low phosphate is measured, its significance is often overlooked. The next most appropriate test is measurement of urine phosphate levels. If there is inappropriately high urine phosphate (phosphaturia) in the setting of low serum phosphate (hypophosphatemia), there should be a high suspicion for tumor-induced osteomalacia. FGF23 (see below) can be measured to confirm the diagnosis but this test is not widely available.

Once hypophosphatemia and phosphaturia have been identified, begin a search for the causative tumor, which may be small and difficult to detect. Gallium-68 DOTA-Octreotate (DOTA-TATE) positron emission tomography (PET) scanning is the best way to locate these tumors.[8] If this scan is not available, other options include Indium-111 Octreotide (Octreoscan) SPECT/CT, whole body CT or MRI imaging.

Differential diagnosis

Serum chemistries are identical in tumor-induced osteomalacia, X-linked hypophosphatemic rickets (XHR) and autosomal dominant hypophosphatemic rickets (ADHR). A negative family history can be useful in distinguishing tumor induced osteomalacia from XHR and ADHR. If necessary, genetic testing for PHEX (phosphate regulating gene with homologies to endopeptidase on the X-chromosome) can be used to conclusively diagnose XHR and testing for the FGF23 gene will identify patients with ADHR.


Resection of the tumor is the ideal treatment and results in correction of hypophosphatemia (and low calcitriol levels) within hours of resection. Resolution of skeletal abnormalities may take many months.

If the tumor cannot be located, begin treatment with calcitriol (1-3 µg/day) and phosphate supplementation (1-4 g/day in divided doses). Tumors that express somatostatin receptors may respond to treatment with octreotide. If hypophosphatemia persists despite calcitriol and phosphate supplementation, administration of cinacalcet has been shown to be useful.[9]

Popular culture

In season 2 of the USA Network series Royal Pains, Reshma Shetty (as Divya Katdare) diagnoses a storm chaser (Jamie Ray Newman) with recurring fractures to have tumor-induced osteomalacia.


  1. Jan de Beur, SM (Sep 2005). "Tumor-induced osteomalacia". JAMA. 294 (10): 1260–7. doi:10.1001/jama.294.10.1260. PMID 16160135.
  2. Carpenter, TO (April 2003). "Oncogenic osteomalacia—a complex dance of factors". N Engl J Med. 348 (17): 175–8. doi:10.1056/NEJMe030037. PMID 12711747.
  3. Wasserman, JK; Purgina, B; Lai, CK; Gravel, D; Mahaffey, A; Bell, D; Chiosea, SI (12 January 2016). "Phosphaturic Mesenchymal Tumor Involving the Head and Neck: A Report of Five Cases with FGFR1 Fluorescence In Situ Hybridization Analysis". Head and Neck Pathology. 10 (3): 279–85. doi:10.1007/s12105-015-0678-1. PMC 4972751. PMID 26759148.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Zadik Y, Nitzan DW (October 2011). "Tumor induced osteomalacia: A forgotten paraneoplastic syndrome?". Oral Oncol. 48 (2): e9–10. doi:10.1016/j.oraloncology.2011.09.011. PMID 21985764.
  5. Shimada, T; Mizutani, S; Muto, T; Yoneya, T; Hino, R; Takeda, S; Takeuchi, Y; Fujita, T; Fukumoto, S; Yamashita, T (May 2001). "Cloning and characterization of FGF23 as a causative factor of tumor-induced osteomalacia". Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 98 (11): 6500–5. Bibcode:2001PNAS...98.6500S. doi:10.1073/pnas.101545198. PMC 33497. PMID 11344269.
  6. Berndt, T; Craig, TA; Bowe, AE; Vassiliadis, J; Reczek, D; Finnegan, R; Jan De Beur, SM; Schiavi, SC; Kumar, R (Sep 2003). "Secreted frizzled-related protein 4 is a potent tumor-derived phosphaturic agent". J Clin Invest. 112 (5): 785–94. doi:10.1172/JCI18563. PMC 182208. PMID 12952927.
  7. Rowe, PS; de Zoysa, PA; Dong, R; Wang, HR; White, KE; Econs, MJ; Oudet, CL (Jul 2000). "MEPE, a new gene expressed in bone marrow and tumors causing osteomalacia". Genomics. 67 (1): 54–68. doi:10.1006/geno.2000.6235. PMID 10945470.
  8. Clifton-Bligh, R. J.; Hofman, M. S.; Duncan, E.; Sim, I. -W.; Darnell, D.; Clarkson, A.; Wong, T.; Walsh, J. P.; Gill, A. J.; Ebeling, P. R.; Hicks, R. J. (2013). "Improving Diagnosis of Tumor-Induced Osteomalacia with Gallium-68 DOTATATE PET/CT". Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism. 98 (2): 687–694. doi:10.1210/jc.2012-3642. PMID 23295468.
  9. Geller, J L; et al. (Jun 2007). "Cinacalcet in the management of tumor-induced osteomalacia". Journal of Bone and Mineral Research. 22 (6): 931–37. doi:10.1359/jbmr.070304. PMID 17352646.

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