This study aimed to evaluate the effects of hormone replacement therapy (HRT), known to prevent osteoporosis and fractures, on markers of bone and cartilage metabolism. Furthermore, we assessed whether changes in these markers corresponded to alterations in bone mineral density and radiographic joint destructions in postmenopausal women with rheumatoid arthritis. Eighty-eight women were randomized to receive HRT, calcium, and vitamin D3, or calcium and vitamin D3 alone, for 2 years. Bone turnover was studied by analyzing serum levels of C-terminal telopeptide fragments of type I collagen (CTX-I), C-terminal telopeptide of type I collagen (ICTP), bone sialoprotein, and C-terminal propeptide of type I procollagen (PICP) and cartilage turnover by urinary levels of collagen type II C-telopeptide degradation fragments (CTX-II) and cartilage oligomeric matrix protein (COMP) in serum. Treatment with HRT resulted in decrease in CTX-I (P < 0.001), ICTP (P < 0.001), PICP (P < 0.05), COMP (P < 0.01), and CTX-II (P < 0.05) at 2 years. Reductions in CTX-I, ICTP, and PICP were associated with improved bone mineral density. Of the markers tested, CTX-I reflected bone turnover most sensitively; it was reduced by 53 ± 6% in the patients receiving HRT. Baseline ICTP (P < 0.001), CTX-II (P < 0.01), and COMP (P < 0.05) correlated with the Larsen score. We suggest that biochemical markers of bone and cartilage turnover may provide a useful tool for assessing novel treatment modalities in arthritis, concerning both joint protection and prevention of osteoporosis.
Keywords: bone turnover, cartilage turnover, hormone replacement therapy, osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis