An osteoporosis drug counteracts the bone damaging side-effects of some breast cancer medications.
The study indicates that some breast cancer patients could take zoledronic acid in addition to their anti-cancer medications to maintain bone health.
Drugs called aromatase inhibitors stop the production of estrogen in postmenopausal women and, therefore, make less estrogen available to stimulate the growth of certain breast cancer cells, reports the journal Cancer.
Many postmenopausal women with breast cancer are routinely treated for several years with these potentially life-saving drugs, but the agents can cause bone loss and fractures.
Adam Brufsky from the University of Pittsburgh’s Cancer Institute, and his colleagues conducted a study to see if the bone drug zoledronic acid could prevent and treat bone loss in postmenopausal breast cancer patients, according to a Pittsburgh statement.
In their five-year study, called Z-FAST, 602 postmenopausal women with early breast cancer who were receiving the aromatase inhibitor letrozole, received zoledronic acid simultaneously with letrozole or only after bone loss or fractures occurred.
Investigators noted progressive increases in bone density throughout the five years of the study in women who initiated zoledronic acid at the start.
Conversely, significant decreases in bone density occurred when zoledronic acid administration was delayed until bone loss was apparent.
Zoledronic acid is on the approved list of the Food and Drug Administration for conditions including osteoporosis and bone complications of cancer.