An osteoporosis drug could be used to prevent the spread of breast cancer to other parts of the body, a study has suggested.
A report published in the online version of the Lancet Oncology found that Zoledronic acid, when used with chemotherapy, significantly reduced the number of detectable tumours after three months of treatment.
It is thought the drug alters the body’s micro-environment, making it more hostile to cancer cells and thus reducing the risk of metastatic disease.
Around 25% of breast cancers spread to the bone, with marrow often acting as a sanctuary for disseminated tumour cells (DTCs) released from the primary cancer.
Earlier research has shown that chemotherapy may promote tumour growth in women with breast cancer by increasing the rate of bone turnover - a process that releases growth hormones.
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.”