A drug used to protect bone may extend survival in older breast cancer patients, according to researchers at the Universities of Sheffield and Leeds.
The AZURE trial, led by Professor Robert Coleman from the University of Sheffield, has revealed that the bisphosphonate drug zoledronic acid boosts disease-free survival in postmenopausal breast cancer patients but may have an adverse effect on younger women.
The full results of the trial were presented today (25 September 2011) at the European Multidisciplinary Cancer Congress in Stockholm and subsequently published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Bisphosphonate drugs, like zoledronic acid, are used mainly to treat osteoporosis. However, they may also be given to breast cancer patients to protect against the effects of secondary bone cancer.
The trial, which started in 2003, involved 3,360 women with early breast cancer from 174 centres in the UK, Australia, Spain, Ireland, Portugal, Taiwan and Thailand. Patients were randomised to receive standard chemotherapy and/or endocrine therapy (hormone therapy) for their breast cancer, to try and prevent recurrence or spread of the disease, with or without zoledronic acid.
Contrary to previous studies, there was no significant difference in disease-free or overall survival between patients who received zoledronic acid and those that did not, looking at the study population as a whole. However, the addition of zoledronic acid did bring significant benefits to an important subgroup of women within the trial.
The study revealed that women who had completely passed through the menopause (five years since last period) had significantly improved disease-free and overall survival. Here, the overall survival rate at five years was 85 per cent compared to 79 per cent for women who did not receive zoledronic acid. The benefit was independent of the characteristics of the disease as defined by the stage of the tumour, oe
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University of Sheffield