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The combination of chemotherapy and a treatment for brittle bones has been found to have a dramatic effect on breast cancer.
A study showed that the two drugs acted together to slow down the growth of tumours. Breast cancer tumours in mice were almost stopped in their tracks following the treatment.
The therapy involves the breast cancer chemotherapy agent doxorubicin and the bisphosphonate drug zoledronic acid.
In the mouse study, doxorubicin was given first, followed 24 hours later by zoledronic acid. When the order was reversed, or the drugs administered on their own, the treatment had little effect.
The chemotherapy drug appeared to “prime” the tumour and make it sensitive to the bisphosphonate, said the scientists.
Tests showed that the treatment triggered a “suicide” response known as apoptosis in the cancer cells, causing them to self-destruct.
It also blocked angiogenesis, the process by which blood vessels are created that fuel tumours with oxygen and nutrients.
The researchers, from the University of Sheffield and Kuopio University in Finland, wrote in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute: “Tumour growth was almost completely abolished in mice treated with doxorubicin followed 24 hours later by zoledronic acid.”
Bisphosphonates are normally used to prevent bone thinning in osteoporosis patients.
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“The cost benefit ratio, tilts heavily towards the continued use of biphosphonates. At present, I believe this combination therapy looks promising.” – Abhijit Bhattacharya, Aimst University, Malaysia
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