Over 80% of patients with advanced breast and prostate cancer ultimately develop bone metastases. Ibandronic acid has proven efficacy for treatment of bone metastasis secondary to breast cancer. This study was designed to investigate the cytotoxic and apoptotic effects of ibandronic acid on hormone- and drug-refractory prostate carcinoma DU-145 and human breast cancer MCF-7 cell lines. Cytotoxicity was evaluated using an XTT cell proliferation kit, and apoptosis was assessed by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (histone-DNA fragmentation) and measurement of caspase 3/7 activity. With increasing concentrations of ibandronic acid there was a dose- and time-dependent decrease in cell numbers. MCF-7 cells were more resistant than DU-145 cells (half maximal inhibitory concentrations of 122 and 90 mu M, respectively). Ibandronic acid induced apoptosis in both cell lines. The study showed an apoptosis-mediated cytotoxic effect for ibandronic acid (in addition to the already known osteoclast inhibiting effect) in breast cancer patients with bone metastases; which was also observed in prostate cancer cells. Further clinical studies involving breast and prostate cancer patients with bone metastases are warranted to confirm these findings.