COLUMBUS, Ohio A drug currently approved for osteoporosis treatment has been shown to reduce bone loss in a study of mice with oral cancer, suggesting it could serve as an important supplemental therapy in patients with head and neck cancers that erode bone.
In this Ohio State University study, the drug treatment also was associated with smaller tumors an unexpected result.
The drug, zoledronic acid, is known by the brand name Zometa. It is designed to inhibit bone resorption, the breaking down of bone caused by the release of a specific kind of cell.
Oral squamous cell carcinoma accounts for about 90 percent of all tumors in the mouth. The five-year survival rate for this form of cancer is 61 percent for all stages combined, according to the National Cancer Institute.
When these tumors form in the gums, their growth in the limited space of the mouth leads to bone loss in the jaw. In turn, bone erosion stimulates the cancer to grow. Scientists call this phenomenon, driven in part by the release of cancer stimulatory compounds from bone, a vicious cycle that occurs in this and other forms of cancer. So even though bone loss itself is not life-threatening, loss of bone means the tumor is continuing to grow.
"The goal is to stop the vicious cycle," said Thomas Rosol, professor of veterinary biosciences at Ohio State and senior author of the study. "Chemotherapy, radiation and surgery are all used to treat head and neck cancers. Zoledronic acid is a very safe drug and all it does is block bone resorption, so patients could receive all of the standard treatments, and this drug could be added as an additional benefit. That's the overall concept."
Further animal and human studies would be required to determine the proper dose and assure the drug's safety and effectiveness, he said.
The research is published in a recent issue of the journal Cancer Research.
The researchers injected mice wi
|Contact: Thomas Rosol|
Ohio State University