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Bone Drug Reduces Odds for Breast Cancer's Return: Study
Date:6/3/2011

By Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, June 3 (HealthDay News) -- Early stage breast cancer patients can see their chances of the cancer's return drop by 32 percent when the osteoporosis drug Zometa is added to regular hormone therapy for three years after surgery, Austrian researchers report.

Women undergoing hormone treatment for breast cancer are prone to develop osteoporosis, so they are usually given a bisphosphonate such as Zometa (zoledronic acid), to build bone strength. However, Zometa appears to have the additional benefit of reducing the risk of cancer recurrence, according to Dr. Otis Brawley, chief medical officer for the American Cancer Society.

"Aromatase inhibitors [like Arimidex] cause osteoporosis, and you must put a patient who is being put on an aromatase inhibitor on some type of osteoporosis preventive therapy," Brawley said. "This study says that putting a patient on Zometa may have even a bigger bang for the buck than the prevention of osteoporosis."

Although exactly how Zometa reduces the risk of recurrence isn't known, lead researcher Dr. Michael Gnant, a professor of surgery at the Medical University of Vienna, said he thinks "it prohibits dormant tumor cells in the bone marrow from 'waking up.'"

"Zometa actually hardens the bone and makes it more difficult for the cancer to actually implant," Brawley added.

The report was published in the June 4 online edition of The Lancet Oncology to coincide with the American Society of Clinical Oncology's annual meeting in Chicago, where the findings were to be presented Friday.

For the study, Gnant's team enrolled 1,803 premenopausal women with early-stage hormone-receptive breast cancer. The trial was funded by drug makers AstraZeneca and Novartis.

The women were randomly assigned to tamoxifen alone, tamoxifen plus Zometa, Arimidex (anastrozole) or Arimidex plus Zometa. Zometa infusions were given every six
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