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Bone drug helps fight breast cancer

Combining a bone drug with chemotherapy could fight the spread of locally advanced breast cancer.

Zoledronic acid, which strengthens bones, helps reduce the likelihood of tumour cells growing in bone marrow and spreading to other parts of the body.

Bone marrow is a haven for disseminated tumour cells (DTCs), which are released from a primary tumour and spread to other organs.

Women with DTCs in their bone marrow are at a higher risk of developing distant disease and death, and about 25% of breast cancers spread to the bone first.

Chemotherapy may lead to increased bone turnover and the release of growth factors, providing a favourable environment for DTCs.

This effect is "abrogated by treatment with bisphosphonates", the authors of a new study claim.

Zoledronic acid has the potential to alter the microenvironment making it less favourable for cancer cells and could result in a decrease in metastatic disease.

Women given zoledronic acid had fewer detectable tumour cells after three months than women who received chemotherapy alone (30% vs 47%).

The authors of the study, published in The Lancet Oncology Online First, say: "Zoledronic acid has antimetastatic properties within the bone marrow and systemically."

Copyright © Press Association 2010

The Lancet Oncology Online First

Your comments (terms and conditions apply):

"I would like to know if the above is a fact, has changes been made to protocols to enable all breast cancer patients to have Zoledronic acid as a routine addition to prescription.  Also, what is the course and time line for this treatment? Is it a one off at the beginning of the first chemo, or, is it to be prescribed for each session of chemo that a patient is followed up? Any positive outcome to enhance the patients life and quality is amazing and welcome and greatly appreciated by all" - Anne Majumdar