Denosumab's Therapeutic Effect for Future Osteosarcopenia Therapy : A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

Article information

Ann Geriatr Med Res. 2023;27(1):32-41
Publication date (electronic) : 2023 January 11
doi :
1Division of Geriatrics, Department of Internal Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, Universitas Udayana, Bali, Indonesia
2Department of Internal Medicine, North Lombok Regional Hospital, West Nusa Tenggara, Indonesia
3Clinical Epidemiology and Evidence-Based Medicine Unit, Cipto Mangunkusumo Hospital, Jakarta, Indonesia
Corresponding Author: I Gusti Putu Suka Aryana, MD, PhD Division of Geriatrics, Department of Internal Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, Universitas Udayana, Jl. Pulau Tarakan No.1, Denpasar 80114, Bali, Indonesia. E-mail:
Received 2022 November 16; Revised 2022 December 28; Accepted 2023 January 5.



Osteosarcopenia, a combination of osteopenia/osteoporosis and sarcopenia, is a common condition among older adults. While numerous studies and meta-analyses have been conducted on the treatment of osteoporosis, the pharmacological treatment of osteosarcopenia still lacks evidence. Denosumab, a human monoclonal antibody, has shown encouraging results for the treatment of osteosarcopenia. Our systematic review and meta-analysis aimed to investigate the potential dual role of denosumab as an anti-resorptive agent and for other beneficial muscle-related effects in patients with osteosarcopenia, and to evaluate whether denosumab can be a treatment of choice compared to bisphosphonate.


Relevant literature was collated from the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL), PubMed, and Google Scholar databases. The primary outcome was denosumab’s effect on lumbar spine bone mineral density (LS BMD), handgrip strength, and gait speed change. The secondary outcome was the effect of denosumab on appendicular lean mass (ALM). The outcomes were presented as mean difference (MD). A random effects model was used in the analysis to represent the population. The risk of bias was assessed using funnel plots.


Out of the 3,074 studies found, four full-text studies met the inclusion criteria, including 264 and 244 participants in the intervention and control groups, respectively. Regarding a primary outcome, our meta-analysis showed that denosumab showed no significant differences in LS BMD and gait speed changes compared to other agents—MD=0.37, 95% confidence interval (CI), -0.35 to 0.79; p=0.09 and MD=0.11; 95% CI, -0.18 to 0.40; p=0.46, respectively. Denosumab had a significant effect on handgrip strength change compared to standard agents—MD=5.16; 95% CI, 1.38 to 18.94; p=0.007, based on the random effects model.


Denosumab was better than bisphosphonate and placebo in improving muscle strength (handgrip strength). Therefore, denosumab may be favored in individuals with osteosarcopenia to improve muscular performance and reduce fall risk.


Recently, the term "osteosarcopenia" has been proposed to describe the coexistence of osteopenia/osteoporosis and sarcopenia.1) The negative effects of osteoporosis (bone loss) and sarcopenia (loss of muscle mass and function), such as increased risks of falls, fractures, frailty, disability, and early mortality, highlight the need to maintain musculoskeletal health in old age.2) Osteosarcopenia occurrence becomes more common with aging, reaching a frequency of 33.7% in individuals over 80 years of age. Mortality is also considerably higher in patients with osteosarcopenia (15.9%) than in those without (6.1%). Additionally, individuals with osteosarcopenia have a higher incidence of fractures, falls, and functional impairment compared to those without osteosarcopenia—fall: hazard ratio (HR)=1.60; 95% confidence interval (CI), 1.07–2.38; p<0.05; fractures: HR=1.54; 95% CI, 1.13–2.08; p<0.01; functional impairment: HR=1.83; 95% CI, 1.41–2.38; p<0.001.3)

Osteoporosis is one of the most prevalent public health problems and a significant risk factor for adverse health outcomes, including fractures.4) Sarcopenia, an age-related decline in skeletal muscle mass, strength, and function, is defined by the degeneration of muscle quantity and quality, frequently resulting in severe unfavorable effects.5) Increased attention has been paid to osteoporosis and sarcopenia, as the two conditions together have been called a “hazardous duet” that worsens health consequences.4-6) The concept of a bone-muscle unit suggests communication between these tissues; hence, diseases that affect one element of the musculoskeletal unit are likely to impact the other, and vice versa.7) However, to date, there is a dearth of evidence from randomized controlled trials (RCTs) that have studied a shared pharmacological target for osteosarcopenia even though therapeutic targets common to both bone and muscle have been postulated.7)

The current recommendations for the treatment of osteosarcopenia include non-pharmacological and pharmacological treatments. Diet and exercise are the cornerstones of non-pharmaceutical treatments. The Framingham Osteoporosis Study reported that low protein consumption was related to bone loss in the proximal femur and spine during a 4-year period.8) Protein consumption is beneficial for enhancing muscle mass,9) while the effects on sarcopenia-related measures, such as strength and functional capacity, are less consistent,9,10) and the effects of exercise are enormous.11) As a non-pharmacological treatment for osteosarcopenia, these two treatments should be combined. Numerous Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved drugs are widely available,12) however, no approved pharmacological medicines exist for the treatment of osteosarcopenia. Testosterone, denosumab, growth hormone, and anti-myostatin antibodies have all been studied as potential pharmacological treatments for osteosarcopenia, although the results have been inconsistent. Denosumab, a human monoclonal antibody, has shown encouraging results in the treatment of osteosarcopenia.13) In bone, denosumab binds to the cytokine RANKL with high specificity and affinity to limit its effect. Consequently, osteoclast recruitment, maturation, and action are blocked, and bone resorption slows.14) Denosumab may also affect muscle mass through the inhibition of the receptor activator of nuclear factor-B ligand (RANK/RANKL) by enhancing muscular strength and balance in older individuals at risk for falls and fractures.15)

Several studies and meta-analyses have been conducted to assess the role of nutritional intervention and exercise in osteosarcopenia; however, the treatment of osteosarcopenia with pharmacological drugs is a novel area of exploration, and evidence on this topic is scarce. Nonetheless, the therapeutic effects of some substances on osteoporosis and sarcopenia suggest a potential dual effect on muscle and bone mass, which may be effective in treating osteosarcopenia.7) We conducted a comprehensive review and meta-analysis to analyze the present data and provide evidence regarding the therapeutic efficacy of denosumab and assess whether denosumab can be the treatment of choice for patients with osteosarcopenia compared to bisphosphonate, which is currently the gold standard for treating osteoporosis.


Eligibility Criteria

We included all research articles that analyzed the therapeutic effects of denosumab for the treatment of osteosarcopenia. We independently screened the eligible publications were screened using the following inclusion criteria: (1) patients with osteosarcopenia or osteoporosis, (2) English language, and (3) original articles. We excluded non-research articles (e.g., case reports or series, review articles, letters to the editor, study protocols, editorials, or commentaries) and studies with insufficient data. The PICO (Population, Intervention, Comparator and Outcomes) framework was used to set the eligibility requirements (Table 1).

PICO criteria

Search Strategy and Study Selection

This meta-analysis was performed according to the 2020 Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analysis (PRISMA) flow statement. We systematically searched the PubMed and the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL) databases using the following search terms: (“osteoporosis” AND “sarcopenia”) AND (“denosumab” OR “antibodies, monoclonal humanized”) with the latest search performed on October 19, 2022. Articles were independently screened for relevance based on their abstracts. These articles were thoroughly read and those that fulfilled our criteria were included in the study. The final inclusion of the studies was based on the agreement of all authors. Any disagreement was settled by author consensus, in which the agreement of more than two authors was the final decision. The full texts of the remaining articles were assessed according to the inclusion and exclusion criteria. The quality of the studies was assessed using a checklist guide from the Joanna Briggs Institute (JBI) critical appraisal tool based on study design. We used a cutoff point to determine the quality of the studies. We used a cutoff point of half of the total score on each JBI critical appraisal checklist. Low-quality studies had scores below the cutoff point, while the rest were considered high-quality studies.

Data Extraction

Data extraction was performed independently by all authors using standardized forms that included author, year of study, study design, country of study, number of subjects, location of study, subject ages, T-score in the lumbar spine (LS), study duration, subject handgrip strength, subject gait speed, study description of, and comparator drugs. The main outcome of the studies was the mean difference (MD) between change in bone mineral density (BMD) in the LS, change in handgrip strength, and change in gait speed. The changes in BMD in the LS, handgrip strength, and gait speed were defined as the differences between baseline and after denosumab treatment during the observation period. BMD was calculated using a dual X-ray absorptiometry (DXA) scan and expressed in g/cm2, handgrip strength was expressed in kg, and gait speed was expressed in m/s within 4 minutes of walking.

Definition of Osteosarcopenia

Osteoporosis was radiographically diagnosed based on BMD measurements as a DXA T-score of ≤-2.5.16) The diagnostic criteria for sarcopenia were based on the Asian Working Group for Sarcopenia (AWGS) criteria, which define sarcopenia as low handgrip strength (<26 kg for men and <18 kg for women) and/or low gait speed (≤0.8 m/s both for men and women) and low muscle mass (<7.0 kg/m2 for men and <5.7 kg/m2 for women).17) Sarcopenia was confirmed by the presence of low muscle quantity or quality. The presence of low muscle strength, low muscle quantity/quality, and low physical performance was considered severe sarcopenia.18) No further criteria exist for defining osteosarcopenia beyond the combination of the clinical and imaging criteria for low BMD and sarcopenia described above. In other words, osteosarcopenia is the presence of sarcopenia with osteopenia or osteoporosis.19)

Statistical Analysis

RevMan v5.4.1 (Copenhagen, Nordic Cochrane Center; The Cochrane Collaboration, 2020) was used to perform the meta-analysis by computing the MD and 95% confidence interval (CI) for the osteosarcopenia parameter (changes in BMD in LS, handgrip strength, and gait speed) from baseline to the study endpoint for the placebo or other agent treatments and denosumab treatments. The p-value was two-tailed, and statistical significance was set at p<0.05. Heterogeneity was assessed using the Q-statistic and I2 test. The I2 statistic measures the percentage of total variation across the studies due to clinical or methodological heterogeneity rather than chance. A random-effects model was used in the analysis to better represent the population. Publication bias was assessed by visual inspection of funnel plots.

Ethical Approval and Consent to Participate

Ethical statements and informed consent were not applicable to this review and meta-analysis. Our study was registered in PROSPERO (ID: CRD42022367533).


Baseline Characteristics and Study Selection

The initial search strategy identified 3,074 studies. Following this, 3,044 papers were excluded based on title and abstract screening, as well as other factors, leaving four relevant studies. Studies that lacked the necessary data for this meta-analysis, or those that were retracted, were excluded. After screening and qualitative analyses, we included four papers in our study. Fig. 1 presents the PRISMA 2020 flowchart.

Fig. 1.

Flowchart of search strategy.

The meta-analysis included two RCTs and two cohort studies. Between 2019 and 2022, 264 and 244 samples in the intervention and control groups, respectively, appeared in these publications. Denosumab was administered to the experimental group for 6 months to 5 years, whereas the control group received oral alendronate 70 mg once weekly, 5 mg intravenous zoledronate once yearly, or 3 mg ibandronate intravenously every 3 months. Table 2 provides an overview of the findings and the investigational characteristics.20-23) We examined the risks of bias for cohort and RCT trials using the JBI critical appraisal tool. Each of the four articles passed the quality evaluation. The results of the risk of bias analysis are detailed in Supplementary Tables S1S5.

Characteristics of the studies included in the systematic review and meta-analysis

Denosumab Administration for Osteosarcopenia

Effect of denosumab on LS BMD change

Compared to other agents, such as zoledronic acid, ibandronate, or alendronate, no significant differences were observed in LS BMD change when denosumab was administered. Based on the random-effects model (I2=94%; χ2=31.19; p<0.00001), the pooled mean difference between denosumab and other agents was 0.37 g/cm2 (95 CI, -0.05–0.79; p=0.09) and did not differ significantly regarding LS BMD change (Fig. 2).

Fig. 2.

Forest plot of denosumab’s effect on lumbar spine bone mineral density change.

Effect of denosumab on handgrip strength change

Our meta-analysis showed that denosumab had a significant effect on handgrip strength change compared to standard agents such as zoledronic acid, ibandronate, and alendronate. Based on the random-effects model (I2=60%; χ2=5.03; p=0.08), the pooled mean difference between denosumab and other agents was 5.16 (95% CI, 1.38–18.94; p=0.007) and showed a significant improvement in handgrip strength (Fig. 3).

Fig. 3.

Forest plot of denosumab’s effect on handgrip strength change.

Effect of denosumab on gait speed change

The 4-m walk gait speed was used to evaluate the effect of denosumab on gait speed compared to other agents. Denosumab had no significant effect on gait speed change compared to standard agents such as zoledronic acid, ibandronate, and alendronate. Based on the random-effects model (I2=100%; χ2=597.58; p<0.00001), the pooled mean difference between denosumab and other agents was 0.11 (95% CI, -0.18–0.40; p=0.46) and showed no significant differences in gait speed change (Fig. 4).

Fig. 4.

Forest plot of denosumab’s effect on gait speed change.

Effect of denosumab on ALM

The ALM was significantly higher in the denosumab group than that in the bisphosphonate group. After 3 years of denosumab administration, ALM increased in the bisphosphonate group (3.22±10.0 kg vs. -0.07±6.6 kg). Changes in ALM were strongly correlated with changes in LS BMD (r2=0.82; p<0.001) in the denosumab group but not in the other groups.20) Women with osteoporosis receiving anti-osteoporosis agents in the treatment group, such as bisphosphonate alone in 60 patients, bisphosphonate with activated vitamin D3 in 12 patients, selective estrogen receptor modulator in four patients, and others in six patients, showed no difference in ALM change compared to placebo after 10 years. The baseline ALM before treatment in the bisphosphonate group was 14.1±1.4 kg versus 14.1±1.7 kg in the placebo group. After 10 years of follow-up, the ALM values were 13.9±1.5 kg versus 13.9±1.7 kg in the treatment group versus the control group. The change in ALM did not differ significantly between the bisphosphonate and control groups (-0.2±0.9 kg vs. -0.2±0.9 kg; p=0.543).24) The funnel plots of all analyses in our study did not reveal any significant asymmetry.

Effect of denosumab on FN BMD change

Rupp et al.22) showed that denosumab also has better outcomes in FN BMD compared to bisphosphonate. The mean annual percentage changes in FN BMD were higher in the denosumab and bisphosphonate groups and were significantly higher compared to the basic group—mean FN BMD in % change per year: basic (-0.78%±2.12%), bisphosphonate (0.68%±2.54%), and denosumab (1.83%±2.66%). We also present some results on the effect of denosumab on ALM and FN BMD changes as secondary outcomes; however, we did not perform statistical analysis due to the limited number of studies and lack of data.


Osteosarcopenia is a common but potentially preventable and treatable illness; if not addressed promptly, it can result in falls, fractures, loss of self-sufficiency in everyday activities, and mortality.25) A study of 680 older adult patients with osteosarcopenia in Sydney reported an increased incidence of falls and fractures.26) Osteosarcopenia is a potentially preventable and treatable disease. Most therapeutic therapies address low BMD and sarcopenia individually; however, the close relationship between the two disorders implies that an integrated interventional approach is more likely to be effective.27) Several drugs are already used to prevent fractures caused by osteoporosis.

The current treatments for osteoporosis fall into two categories: anti-resorptive (bisphosphonates and denosumab) and anabolic (teriparatide and abaloparatide). Anti-sclerostin antibody is another innovative osteoporosis medication with an anabolic effect that remains under investigation.26) Currently, anti-resorptive agents are more widely used than anabolic agents for the treatment of osteoporosis. Although pharmacological interventions for osteoporosis have been extensively explored, data and evidence for pharmacological interventions for osteosarcopenia are currently inadequate. Denosumab is a human immunoglobulin G2 monoclonal antibody with excellent affinity and specificity for RANKL.28) RANK, its ligand RANKL, and the soluble decoy receptor osteoprotegerin (OPG) pathway are primarily responsible for bone remodeling and homeostasis. The binding of RANKL to its associated receptor RANK initiates a series of signaling events that cause osteoclast development, activity, and survival.21) Several studies have demonstrated a strong link between osteoporosis and skeletal muscle dysfunction; however, the molecular mechanism regulating bone and skeletal muscle pathology remains unknown.21)

The results of our meta-analysis demonstrated the lack of significant differences in the effect of denosumab on LS BMD change compared to other agents like zoledronic acid, ibandronate, or alendronate, with a pooled mean difference between denosumab and other agents of 0.37 g/cm2 (95% CI, -0.05–0.79; p=0.09). In head-to-head tests comparing denosumab and bisphosphonate, the denosumab group exhibited comparable BMD changes at all four bone locations compared to the alendronate group. Alendronate and denosumab at the LS were also associated with significant increases in BMD (p<0.001) compared to placebo.29) However, a meta-analysis of 11 studies that included head-to-head comparisons of 2,573 participants taking bisphosphonates and 2,873 participants taking denosumab reported results contrary to those in our meta-analysis, which suggested that denosumab significantly increased BMD at the hip, femoral neck, LS, and one-third radius but did not significantly reduce fracture risk.30) The most likely reasons for this outcome difference compared to our study are the superior adherence, compliance, and denosumab durability compared to bisphosphonate. The mode of administration for denosumab requires subcutaneous injection by healthcare providers, which provides direct proof of patient adherence to therapy.31) This may also be attributed to the mechanisms of action of each medicine. Denosumab, a new anti-resorptive drug, suppresses osteoclast-mediated bone resorption similarly to bisphosphonates, but via a different mechanism.32) The actions of bisphosphonates in preventing bone loss rely mostly on bisphosphonate binding to bone minerals, while denosumab inhibits osteoclast survival and differentiation mostly by direct interaction with RANKL.30) Oral bisphosphonates and subcutaneous injectable denosumab are currently the recommended agents for the treatment of osteoporosis; of these two drugs, oral bisphosphonates are considered the first-line therapy.33) In terms of the reduction of osteoporosis fracture risk, neither medication differed significantly from the others. Pedersen et al.34) performed a retrospective cohort analysis of the risk of hip fractures in individuals treated with denosumab and alendronate, reporting comparable hip fracture risk ratios for denosumab and alendronate independent of sex, age, or fracture history.

As described above, osteosarcopenia is a term used to describe older persons with both poor BMD and sarcopenia. Sarcopenia is defined as the presence of decreased muscle mass accompanied by diminished muscular function, strength, and performance.5) We performed a meta-analysis to determine whether denosumab has a distinctly favorable influence on sarcopenia parameters. We used measurements of the changes in handgrip strength following denosumab injection to evaluate muscle strength. After denosumab treatment, we measured physical performance by quantifying the change in gait speed, while ALM was used to determine muscle mass. Because of its simplicity, uniformity, and strong connection with lower-extremity muscular strength, handgrip strength is the most preferred method to test muscle strength.18) In addition, handgrip strength is a clinical indicator of limited movement and a predictor of clinical outcomes.5) The results of our meta-analysis showed that denosumab significantly improved handgrip strength compared to other agents including zoledronic acid, ibandronate, and alendronate. Based on the random-effects model, the pooled mean difference between denosumab and the other agents was 5.16 kg (95% CI, 1.38–18.94; p=0.007). In an observational prospective study, Pizzonia et al.35) reported that denosumab increased handgrip strength. Handgrip longitudinal (T0–T1) measurements were reported in 31 female patients. A T0–T1 MD was reported in 19/22 patients treated with alendronate (0.85±4.8 kg) and in 12/13 females treated with denosumab (0.97±6.0 kg), respectively, indicating a positive handgrip trend over time. However, the authors did not investigate the significance of these differences in either group.

The results of our meta-analysis showed that denosumab had no significant effect on gait speed change compared to placebo or other agents, such as zoledronic acid, ibandronate, or alendronate. Based on the random-effects model, the pooled MD between denosumab and other agents was 0.11 (95% CI, -0.18–0.40; p=0.46) and showed no significant differences in gait speed change. To date, little research has reported the effects of denosumab on gait speed. Miedany et al.21) reported that denosumab not only enhanced BMD but also decreased the risk of falling. Compared to bisphosphonates, denosumab exhibited the most substantial favorable effect on physical performance, as indicated by the improvement in the 4-m walk test (p<0.001 in the denosumab group vs. p=0.05 in the alendronate and zoledronic group) to measure gait speed.21) These contradictory findings may be a consequence of the numerous variables that impact gait speed. Gait speed diminishes with age, is controlled by various variables, and can be improved by adopting a lifestyle that strengthens the muscles of the lower extremities.36) However, a study by Miedany et al.21) did not specifically identify confounding variables that might influence gait speed in their study population. Denosumab-induced increases in BMD did not necessarily correlate with increased gait speed. In older adult men, agility and gait speed showed the greatest influence on BMD and structure, whereas balance was associated with BMD in older adult women.37) One study found that older adult women with more rapid bone loss during 2 years of follow-up had a greater risk of decline in usual walking speed compared to those with higher BMD.38)

Although our meta-analysis did not directly examine ALM changes due to restricted research data, denosumab treatment may also help improve ALM in older individuals with osteoporosis. ALM levels significantly increased in the denosumab group compared to those in the bisphosphonate group after 3 years of administration.20) The binding of denosumab to RANKL and its associated receptor RANK results in a cascade of signaling events that induce osteoclast development, activity, and survival. OPG is a soluble decoy receptor that binds to RANKL, thereby inhibiting its interaction with RANK and reducing osteoclastogenesis and bone loss.39,40) Recent studies have highlighted the significance of mutual communication between muscle and bone via myokine and osteokine release, indicating that the treatment of osteoporosis with anti-osteoporotic drugs may also have a positive effect on muscle condition.24)

The RANK/RANKL/OPG pathway is important for more than just bone health and may play a role in skeletal muscle and other tissues.41) A mouse investigation showed high RANKL expression in the bone and muscle, notably in the soleus, compared to other muscles (gastrocnemius) and soft tissues, such as the colon, liver, and white and brown adipose tissues. RANK has also been detected in muscle, but to a lesser extent than in bone20) and skeletal muscles. As a result of NF-κB activation, RANKL/RANK signaling in skeletal muscle inhibits myogenic development, leading to skeletal muscle dysfunction and atrophy.42) In a mouse model of Duchenne muscular dystrophy and denervation-induced muscle atrophy, the injection of recombinant OPG protein resulted in enhanced muscle strength. More recently, the effects of inhibiting RANKL and RANK on muscle mass and strength have also been reported in conditions such as osteoporosis and sarcopenia.20) Mice containing the human RANKL genomic region (huRANKL-Tg mice) had lower muscle mass, force, fat infiltration, and glucose absorption as well as a low bone mass phenotype and increased expression of anti-myogenic and inflammatory genes.

Denosumab is a monoclonal antibody that targets RANKL.28) Bonnet et al.20) studied insulin signaling in C2C12-differentiated myotubes expressing both RANK and RANKL to better understand the effect of RANKL-RANK signaling on muscle cell metabolism. In these cells, RANKL enhanced Ser318 phosphorylation in insulin receptor substrate-1 (IRS1), which is known to downregulate insulin receptor activity, whereas OPG diminished it. In contrast, AKTser473, a key IRS1 activator, showed the opposite effect.20) Consequently, the beneficial effects of OPG on insulin receptor signaling were validated in vivo in both huRANKL-Tg+ and Pparb–/– mice, as evidenced by the improved insulin tolerance test (ITT) curves.43) Through stimulation of the IkB kinase/NF-κB pathway, TNF-α-induced inflammation in fat has been demonstrated to reduce IRS1's capacity to transduce insulin signals.44) Protein tyrosine phosphatase receptor gamma (PTP-RG), a tyrosine phosphatase receptor, has recently been identified as a crucial link between liver inflammation and insulin resistance.20) In the muscle, RANKL increased levels of PTP-RG, which were lowered by OPG-Fc in C2C12 myotubes and similarly diminished by denosumab in the soleus of huRANKL-Tg+ mice.45) Thus, RANKL causes resistance to insulin signaling, which leads to poor glucose entry, while also causing limited production of inflammatory markers (such as PTP-RG and TNF-α), which may contribute to impaired glucose uptake and muscle dysfunction.44) Changes in skeletal muscle glucose uptake have been previously described,43) which reduce contractile characteristics and muscle function.20)

Treatment with recombinant OPG protein or denosumab restored muscle mass, function, and glucose consumption in huRANKL-Tg mice and peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor β (PPARβ)-deficient mice, which have a combination of sarcopenia and a low bone mass phenotype. Denosumab therapy for more than 3 years has also been observed to improve ALM and handgrip strength in osteoporotic women. While RANKL/RANK signaling reduces muscular strength, denosumab therapy may protect both bone and skeletal muscle functions.46) The results of the aforementioned studies demonstrate the potential dual effect of denosumab on BMD and muscle strength in patients with osteosarcopenia.

In conclusion, denosumab was more effective than bisphosphonate and placebo for improving muscle strength (handgrip strength). Therefore, denosumab may be favored in individuals with osteosarcopenia to improve muscular performance and reduce the risk of falls. Further research is needed to investigate the potential dual role of denosumab as an anti-resorptive and for other muscle-related impacts in this highly vulnerable population of patients with osteosarcopenia.


The authors thank the authors of the analyzed studies. The authors also thank the staff in the Division of Geriatrics, Department of Internal Medicine at Udayana University, the Department of Internal Medicine at North Lombok Regional Hospitals, and the Division of Geriatrics, Department of Internal Medicine - Clinical Epidemiology and Evidence-Based Medicine Unit, Faculty of Medicine Indonesia University - Cipto Mangunkusumo Hospital, Jakarta, Indonesia.


The researchers claim no conflicts of interest.




Conceptualization, IGPSA, SSR; Data curation, IGPSA, SSR, SS; Investigation, IGPSA, SSR, SS; Methodology, IGPSA, SSR; Formal analysis, IGPSA, SSR, SS; Writing-original draft, IGPSA, SSR; Writing-review & editing, IGPSA, SSR, SS.


Supplementary materials can be found via

Table S1.

Summary of study appraisal based on JBI appraisal checklist

Table S2.

Summary of study appraisal based on JBI appraisal checklist for RCT: Bonnet et al.21)

Table S3.

Summary of study appraisal based on JBI appraisal checklist for RCT: Miedany et al.22)

Table S4.

Summary of study appraisal based on JBI appraisal checklist for cohort: Phu et al.23)

Table S5.

Summary of study appraisal based on JBI appraisal checklist for cohort: Rupp et al.24)



1. Nielsen BR, Abdulla J, Andersen HE, Schwarz P, Suetta C. Sarcopenia and osteoporosis in older people: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Eur Geriatr Med 2018;9:419–34.
2. Reginster JY, Beaudart C, Buckinx F, Bruyere O. Osteoporosis and sarcopenia: two diseases or one? Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care 2016;19:31–6.
3. Salech F, Marquez C, Lera L, Angel B, Saguez R, Albala C. Osteosarcopenia predicts falls, fractures, and mortality in Chilean community-dwelling older adults. J Am Med Dir Assoc 2021;22:853–8.
4. Okamura H, Ishikawa K, Kudo Y, Matsuoka A, Maruyama H, Emori H, et al. Risk factors predicting osteosarcopenia in postmenopausal women with osteoporosis: a retrospective study. PLoS One 2020;15e0237454.
5. Hirschfeld HP, Kinsella R, Duque G. Osteosarcopenia: where bone, muscle, and fat collide. Osteoporos Int 2017;28:2781–90.
6. Kawao N, Kaji H. Interactions between muscle tissues and bone metabolism. J Cell Biochem 2015;116:687–95.
7. Fatima M, Brennan-Olsen SL, Duque G. Therapeutic approaches to osteosarcopenia: insights for the clinician. Ther Adv Musculoskelet Dis 2019;11:1759720X19867009.
8. Hannan MT, Tucker KL, Dawson-Hughes B, Cupples LA, Felson DT, Kiel DP. Effect of dietary protein on bone loss in elderly men and women: the Framingham Osteoporosis Study. J Bone Miner Res 2000;15:2504–12.
9. Morton RW, Murphy KT, McKellar SR, Schoenfeld BJ, Henselmans M, Helms E, et al. A systematic review, meta-analysis and meta-regression of the effect of protein supplementation on resistance training-induced gains in muscle mass and strength in healthy adults. Br J Sports Med 2018;52:376–84.
10. Kemmler W, Weineck M, Kohl M, von Stengel S, Giessing J, Frohlich M, et al. High intensity resistance exercise training to improve body composition and strength in older men with osteosarcopenia: results of the randomized controlled Franconian Osteopenia and Sarcopenia Trial (FrOST). Front Sports Act Living 2020;2:4.
11. Kemmler W, Kohl M, Frohlich M, Jakob F, Engelke K, von Stengel S, et al. Effects of high-intensity resistance training on osteopenia and sarcopenia parameters in older men with osteosarcopenia: one-year results of the randomized controlled Franconian Osteopenia and Sarcopenia Trial (FrOST). J Bone Miner Res 2020;35:1634–44.
12. Zanker J, Duque G. Osteoporosis in older persons: old and new players. J Am Geriatr Soc 2019;67:831–40.
13. Deeks ED. Denosumab: a review in postmenopausal osteoporosis. Drugs Aging 2018;35:163–73.
14. Hanley DA, Adachi JD, Bell A, Brown V. Denosumab: mechanism of action and clinical outcomes. Int J Clin Pract 2012;66:1139–46.
15. Kirk B, Miller S, Zanker J, Duque G. A clinical guide to the pathophysiology, diagnosis and treatment of osteosarcopenia. Maturitas 2020;140:27–33.
16. World Health Organization. WHO Scientific Group on the Assessment of Osteoporosis at Primary Health Care Level [Internet] Geneva, Switzerland: World Health Organization; 2004. [cited 2023 Jan 30]. Available from:
17. Chen LK, Liu LK, Woo J, Assantachai P, Auyeung TW, Bahyah KS, et al. Sarcopenia in Asia: consensus report of the Asian Working Group for Sarcopenia. J Am Med Dir Assoc 2014;15:95–101.
18. Cruz-Jentoft AJ, Bahat G, Bauer J, Boirie Y, Bruyere O, Cederholm T, et al. Sarcopenia: revised European consensus on definition and diagnosis. Age Ageing 2019;48:16–31.
19. Huo YR, Suriyaarachchi P, Gomez F, Curcio CL, Boersma D, Muir SW, et al. Phenotype of osteosarcopenia in older individuals with a history of falling. J Am Med Dir Assoc 2015;16:290–5.
20. Bonnet N, Bourgoin L, Biver E, Douni E, Ferrari S. RANKL inhibition improves muscle strength and insulin sensitivity and restores bone mass. J Clin Invest 2019;129:3214–23.
21. Miedany YE, Gaafary ME, Toth M, Hegazi MO, Aroussy NE, Hassan W, et al. Is there a potential dual effect of denosumab for treatment of osteoporosis and sarcopenia? Clin Rheumatol 2021;40:4225–32.
22. Rupp T, von Vopelius E, Strahl A, Oheim R, Barvencik F, Amling M, et al. Beneficial effects of denosumab on muscle performance in patients with low BMD: a retrospective, propensity score-matched study. Osteoporos Int 2022;33:2177–84.
23. Phu S, Bani Hassan E, Vogrin S, Kirk B, Duque G. Effect of denosumab on falls, muscle strength, and function in community-dwelling older adults. J Am Geriatr Soc 2019;67:2660–1.
24. Miyakoshi N, Hongo M, Shimada Y. Long-term changes in lean mass in postmenopausal women and the effects of osteoporosis pharmacotherapy: a 10-year longitudinal study. Osteoporos Sarcopenia 2021;7:30–5.
25. Polito A, Barnaba L, Ciarapica D, Azzini E. Osteosarcopenia: a narrative review on clinical studies. Int J Mol Sci 2022;23:5591.
26. Huo YR, Suriyaarachchi P, Gomez F, Curcio CL, Boersma D, Gunawardene P, et al. Comprehensive nutritional status in sarco-osteoporotic older fallers. J Nutr Health Aging 2015;19:474–80.
27. Aryana IGPS, Rini SS, Soejono CH. Importance of sclerostin as bone-muscle mediator crosstalk. Ann Geriatr Med Res 2022;26:72–82.
28. Narayanan P. Denosumab: a comprehensive review. South Asian J Cancer 2013;2:272–7.
29. Lewiecki EM, Miller PD, McClung MR, Cohen SB, Bolognese MA, Liu Y, et al. Two-year treatment with denosumab (AMG 162) in a randomized phase 2 study of postmenopausal women with low BMD. J Bone Miner Res 2007;22:1832–41.
30. Wu J, Zhang Q, Yan G, Jin X. Denosumab compared to bisphosphonates to treat postmenopausal osteoporosis: a meta-analysis. J Orthop Surg Res 2018;13:194.
31. Cadena M. Postmenopausal women with osteoporosis, comparing treatment of oral bisphosphonates to denosumab [dissertation] Stockton, CA: University of the Pacific; 2019.
32. Chandran T, Venkatachalam I. Efficacy and safety of denosumab compared to bisphosphonates in improving bone strength in postmenopausal osteoporosis: a systematic review. Singapore Med J 2019;60:364–78.
33. Augoulea A, Tsakonas E, Triantafyllopoulos I, Rizos D, Armeni E, Tsoltos N, et al. Comparative effects of denosumab or bisphosphonate treatment on bone mineral density and calcium metabolism in postmenopausal women. J Musculoskelet Neuronal Interact 2017;17:444–9.
34. Pedersen AB, Heide-Jorgensen U, Sorensen HT, Prieto-Alhambra D, Ehrenstein V. Comparison of risk of osteoporotic fracture in denosumab vs alendronate treatment within 3 years of initiation. JAMA Netw Open 2019;2e192416.
35. Pizzonia M, Casabella A, Natali M, Petrocchi L, Carmisciano L, Nencioni A, et al. Osteosarcopenia in very old age adults after hip fracture: a real-world therapeutic standpoint. Front Med (Lausanne) 2021;8:612506.
36. Suzuki T, Yoshida H, Kim H, Yukawa H, Sugiura M, Furuna T, et al. Walking speed as a good predictor for maintenance of I‐ADL among the rural community elderly in Japan: a 5‐year follow‐up study from TMIG‐LISA. Geriatr Gerontol Int 2003;3:S6–14.
37. Moradell A, Gomez-Cabello A, Gomez-Bruton A, Muniz-Pardos B, Puyalto JM, Matute-Llorente A, et al. Associations between physical fitness, bone mass, and structure in older people. Biomed Res Int 2020;2020:6930682.
38. Kwon J, Suzuki T, Yoshida H, Kim H, Yoshida Y, Iwasa H, et al. Association between change in bone mineral density and decline in usual walking speed in elderly community-dwelling Japanese women during 2 years of follow-up. J Am Geriatr Soc 2007;55:240–4.
39. Anastasilakis AD, Polyzos SA, Makras P. Therapy of endocrine disease: denosumab vs bisphosphonates for the treatment of postmenopausal osteoporosis. Eur J Endocrinol 2018;179:R31–45.
40. Ominsky MS, Li X, Asuncion FJ, Barrero M, Warmington KS, Dwyer D, et al. RANKL inhibition with osteoprotegerin increases bone strength by improving cortical and trabecular bone architecture in ovariectomized rats. J Bone Miner Res 2008;23:672–82.
41. Dufresne SS, Boulanger-Piette A, Bosse S, Frenette J. Physiological role of receptor activator nuclear factor-kB (RANK) in denervation-induced muscle atrophy and dysfunction. Receptors Clin Investig 2016;3:e13231–6.
42. Dufresne SS, Dumont NA, Boulanger-Piette A, Fajardo VA, Gamu D, Kake-Guena SA, et al. Muscle RANK is a key regulator of Ca2+ storage, SERCA activity, and function of fast-twitch skeletal muscles. Am J Physiol Cell Physiol 2016;310:C663–72.
43. Sylow L, Nielsen IL, Kleinert M, Moller LL, Ploug T, Schjerling P, et al. Rac1 governs exercise-stimulated glucose uptake in skeletal muscle through regulation of GLUT4 translocation in mice. J Physiol 2016;594:4997–5008.
44. Aguirre V, Werner ED, Giraud J, Lee YH, Shoelson SE, White MF. Phosphorylation of Ser307 in insulin receptor substrate-1 blocks interactions with the insulin receptor and inhibits insulin action. J Biol Chem 2002;277:1531–7.
45. Brenachot X, Ramadori G, Ioris RM, Veyrat-Durebex C, Altirriba J, Aras E, et al. Hepatic protein tyrosine phosphatase receptor gamma links obesity-induced inflammation to insulin resistance. Nat Commun 2017;8:1820.
46. Ono T, Hayashi M, Sasaki F, Nakashima T. RANKL biology: bone metabolism, the immune system, and beyond. Inflamm Regen 2020;40:2.

Article information Continued

Fig. 1.

Flowchart of search strategy.

Fig. 2.

Forest plot of denosumab’s effect on lumbar spine bone mineral density change.

Fig. 3.

Forest plot of denosumab’s effect on handgrip strength change.

Fig. 4.

Forest plot of denosumab’s effect on gait speed change.

Table 1.

PICO criteria

Patient Osteosarcopenia or osteoporosis patients
Intervention Denosumab
Comparator Placebo/other drugs such as zoledronic/bisphosphonate/alendronate
Outcome Changes in lumbar spine BMD, handgrip strength, gait speed, appendicular lean mass, and femoral neck BMD

BMD, bone mineral density.

Table 2.

Characteristics of the studies included in the systematic review and meta-analysis

Study Year Design Country Population Sex and mean age Intervention Control Outcome Follow-up duration
Bonnet et al.20) 2019 Single-blind RCT Geneva, Switzerland Post-menopausal osteoporotic women Females only Denosumab (n=18) n=20 BMD-LS, ALM, handgrip strength 2.9 yr (range, 2.2–3.7 yr)
Mean age: Denosumab 64.9±1.5 yr, control 65.7±0.9 yr BPs: alendronate (n=8), zoledronate (n=12)
Miedany et al.21) 2021 Single-blind RCT Egypt Patients with osteoporosis Male and female Denosumab (n=135) n=136 Hip and spine BMD, calcium, vitamin D, FRAX, TUG, handgrip strength, gait speed 5 yr
Mean ages: NA BPs: oral alendronate 70 mg once weekly, zoledronate once yearly 5 mg iv
Rupp et al.22) 2022 Retrospective cohort Germany Patients with osteopenia and osteoporosis Male (n=8) and female (n=52) in both groups Denosumab (n=60) n=60 25(OH)D3 level, femoral and spinal BMD, handgrip strength, CRT force 17.6±9 mo (range, 8–59 mo)
Mean age: Denosumab 68.9±9.2 yr, control 68.0±7.6 yr BPs: alendronate 70 mg once weekly oral, ibandronate 3 mg intravenously every 3 months
Phu et al.23) 2019 Cohort Melbourne, Australia Older adults ≥65 yr with history or risk of falls and/or fractures Male and female Denosumab + vitamin D (n=51) n=28 Gait speed, TUG, FSST, SPPB score, ABC 6 mo
Mean age: NA Zoledronic acid + vitamin D

RCT, randomized controlled trial; BPs, bisphosphonates; BMD, bone mineral density; ALM, appendicular lean mass; iv, intravenous; FRAX, Fracture Risk Assessment Tool; TUG, timed up and go; CRT, chair raising test; FSST, four square step test; SPPB, Short Physical Performance Battery; ABC, Activity-specific Balance Confidence Scale.