A drug already prescribed for the treatment of osteoporosis could be effective in preventing the spread of breast cancer, a report has found.
Scientists writing in the online version of The Lancet Oncology found that Zoledronic acid, when used in combination with chemotherapy, significantly reduced the number of additional detectable cancers after three months of treatment.
The report suggested that the drug works by altering the micro-environment around the tumour, making it less favourable for cancer cells and thus reducing the risk of metastatic disease.
Around 25% of breast cancers spread to bone marrow, with earlier research suggesting that chemotherapy – which increases rates of bone turnover and, in doing so, releases growth hormones – could actually aid the expansion of the cancer.
Marrow then acts as a sanctuary for disseminated tumour cells (DTCs) released from the primary cancer, where they adapt and spread to other organs.
The report said: “Zoledronic acid has antimetastatic properties within the bone marrow and systemically.
“Chemotherapy leads to increased bone turnover and the release of growth factors, providing a favourable environment for DTCs, and that this effect is abrogated by treatment with bisphosphonates.”
Copyright Press Association 2010
The Lancet Oncology