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Bone Drug Zometa Flops Overall as Breast Cancer Treatment
Date:12/10/2010

By Kathleen Doheny
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, Dec. 9 (HealthDay News) -- The bone drug zoledronic acid (Zometa), considered a potentially promising weapon against breast cancer recurrence, has flopped in a new study involving more than 3,360 patients.

Zometa did not appear to prevent breast cancer from returning or to boost disease-free survival overall. British researchers presented the disappointing findings Thursday at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium in Texas.

"As a whole, the study is negative," study author Dr. Robert Coleman, a professor of medical oncology at the University of Sheffield in England, said during a Thursday news conference on the findings. "There is no overall difference in recurrence rates or survival rates [between patients who got the bone drug and those who did not], except in older patients, defined as more than five years after menopause."

That was a possible bright spot in the results.

"In that population, there is a benefit," Coleman said. The older women had a 27 percent improvement in recurrence and a 29 percent improvement in overall survival over the five-year follow-up, compared to those who didn't get the drug.

"There was tremendous hope that this [drug] approach would be a major leap forward," Coleman noted. "There have been other trials that suggest this is the case." In one previous study, the use of the drug was linked with a 32 percent improvement in survival and lowered recurrence in younger women with breast cancer.

Other research has found that healthy women on bone drugs were less prone to develop breast cancer, so experts were hoping the drugs had an anti-tumor effect.

Zometa, marketed by Novartis AG, is used to relieve pain when cancers have spread to the bone -- in part, by slowing bone erosion caused by the disease. It is given intravenously, while other bisphosphonates such as Actonel, Fosamax or Boniva can be taken orally.

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