Brittle bone drug combination may slow breast cancer

In collaboration with the Press Association

A new combination of treatments that includes a drug used to prevent bone loss may stop breast tumour growth, British scientists have found.

Researchers at the University of Sheffield carried out a study to find out whether a combination of the chemotherapy drug doxorubicin and the bone-protecting drug zoledronic acid had a beneficial effect on the growth of breast tumours.

The laboratory tests showed that doxorubicin followed by zoledronic acid after a 24-hour interval brought breast tumour growth almost completely to a standstill.

The researchers now hope to replicate the findings, which are published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, in clinical trials which are currently underway.

Project leader Dr Ingunn Holen, from the university's School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, said: "Our work - using a model system - has shown that treatment with the chemotherapy agent doxorubicin followed by zoledronic acid kills breast tumours.

"We eagerly look forward to the results of a large breast cancer trial later this year to confirm our findings. This method of treatment could then quickly be incorporated into clinical practice."

Pamela Goldberg, chief executive of Breast Cancer Campaign which funded the research, described the results as "very encouraging".

"The good news is the two treatments used in this study are relatively inexpensive and already used in the clinic," she revealed. "Therefore we should quickly see the benefits giving women the best possible chance of beating breast cancer."

Dr Joanna Peak, science information officer at Cancer Research UK, said: "Establishing the most effective combinations of drug treatments and the timings in which they are given is an important area of clinical research. But the benefits of giving zoledronic acid after doxorubicin have only been shown here in mice and now need to be evaluated more fully in people with breast cancer."