New research suggests adding the bone-strengthening drug Zometa to chemotherapy shrinks breast tumors more than chemo alone, helping more women to avoid mastectomy.
Previous studies have shown that Zometa (known generically as zoledronic acid), used to prevent bone loss and prevent fractures in cancer patients, can also help to prevent tumors from spreading.
“This is the first study to suggest that this class of drugs may have direct anti-tumor activity,” said said Dr. Robert Coleman of the University of Sheffield, in Britain.
The findings were presented by Dr. Coleman at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium in Texas this week.
Adding Zometa to chemotherapy before surgery made the tumors shrink more, found Coleman and colleagues.
For the study, 205 women with early stage breast cancer were divided into two different groups.
The women in Group One were given Zometa and chemotherapy before surgery. And the women in Group Two were given chemotherapy only. The goal was reducing the size of the tumor prior to surgery.
Researchers concluded that Group One who was given Zometa and chemotherapy before surgery had a 33 percent greater reduction in the size of their primary tumor, compared to Group Two who was given chemotherapy only.
65.3 percent of the women in Group One needed a mastectomy, compared to 77.9 percent in Group Two.
Zoledronic acid is in a class of bone-strengthening drugs known as bisphosphonates which are used in osteoporosis treatment. Breast cancer and other types of cancers commonly spread to the bone and patients can be crippled by excruciating pain and fractures that result.
While the study findings are not enough to change current medical practices, said Coleman, they should help to promote further exploration of zoledronic acid as a potential cancer fighting drug.
The research was part of AZURE, a larger study that began evaluating the combination treatment in more than 3,000 women with breast cancer in 2006. The final results are not expected for at least two to three years.
Also presented at the Breast Cancer Symposium, was a Phase III study that showed a combination of Novartis’s drug Femara and GlaxoSmithKline’s drug Tykerb can significantly delay progression of breast cancer in some patients. #