Many European studies on Zometa and similar drugs, such as clodronate, have also found that these drugs, which are derived from a class of compounds called bisphosphonates, prevented the spread of breast cancer to bone marrow and other organs, thereby reducing the risk of breast cancer relapse.
Although the exact mechanism by which bisphosphonates might help reduce the risk of cancer recurrence is not fully understood, experts hypothesize that the bones might serve as a reservoir for the disease in some patients. By attacking the disease at its root in the bone, so to speak, bisphosphonates may be a key to treating cancer that is as successful as chemotherapy for some patients.
However, without any U.S. clinical trials testing the use of bisphosphonates in breast cancer patients, the FDA denied its approval as an adjuvant therapy for cancer.
But this study seems to change the mind of many breast cancer doctors who were formerly wary of recommending a bisphosphonate such as Zometa as an adjuvant therapy to some of their patients.
"I think that from the perspective of both bone health and breast cancer outcomes, [this study] is going to increase the use of Zometa," said Clifford Hudis, chief of the Breast Cancer Medicine Service at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. "We can see from this [study] that [Zometa] might allow us to kill two birds with one stone."
Gralow still cautioned that the study involves a narrow group of patients and should not be generalized to every breast cancer patient. But she said when it comes to how she will treat her early-stage breast cancer patients, she will be discussing the use of Zometa and offering it as an option.
Hudis also stopped short of saying he would recommend this drug to all breast cancer patients to reduce the risk of cancer recurrence.
"I think we need more research before we can say that," Hudis said. "We know that the one-size-fits-all approach with cancer treatment never works."