TUESDAY, Aug. 14 (HealthDay News) -- The relatively new drug denosumab (Xgeva) reduces bone complications of advanced breast cancer more effectively than another osteoporosis drug, zoledronic acid (Zometa), according to new research.
Zoledronic acid belongs to a class of drugs known as bisphosphonates, which help delay bone complications such as fractures, spinal cord compression and bone pain. But zoledronic acid has been linked with kidney toxicity and other reactions. Denosumab, a newer drug called a monoclonal antibody, is superior to zoledronic acid in reducing skeletal problems and better tolerated, the study found.
"It's more effective at preventing bone destruction caused by breast cancer that has spread to the bone," said Dr. Alison Stopeck, associate professor of medicine at the University of Arizona, Tucson, and an investigator on the study, which was published Aug. 14 in the journal Clinical Cancer Research.
When cancer cells from the breast move to the bone, they stimulate osteoclasts, cells that break down bone tissue. In the face of severe bone pain, doctors resort to radiation therapy. "The most common reason for radiation therapy [in these patients] is bone pain," Stopeck said. The radiation kills the tumor cells, and the osteoclasts aren't stimulated, she explained.
Following up on previous research, the researchers assessed bone complications, health-related quality of life and length of time to radiation therapy in more than 2,000 women with breast cancer that had metastasized, or spread, to the bone.
The investigators assigned half of the women to denosumab, which is given by injection, and the others to zoledronic acid, given intravenously. Both drugs were given once a month for 20 months.
Denosumab was a bit better on all counts, they found.
Thirty-one percent of denosumab patients had a skeletal complication compar
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