Excised human breast tissue, showing a stellate area of cancer 2cm in diameter. The lesion could be felt clinically as a hard mobile lump, not attached to skin or chest wall. The histology was that of a moderately well differentiated duct carcinoma

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Zometa (zoledronic acid), a Novartis drug which prevents prevent bone loss during breast cancer treatment, substantially cut the risk that the cancer would return. These results may offer a possible new way to fight the disease.

In the first large study to affirm wider anti-cancer hopes for Zometa
and other bone-building drugs known as bisphosphonates, 1,803 premenopausal women taking hormone treatments for early-stage (adjuvant) breast cancer were given Zometa or not. The women in the ABCSG-12 trial had all undergone surgery for the primary tumour, and about 5% had received preoperative chemotherapy to shrink the tumour; none of the woman received chemotherapy afterwards.

The results showed that women taking Zometa had a 36% lower risk for breast cancer recurrence than those not taking the drug. They showed fewer events on all cancer measures; i.e. they had fewer locoregional recurrences, fewer distant recurrences, fewer bone and non-bone metastases, and less contralateral breast cancer.

Although bisphosphonates have shown anticancer effects in preclinical models, clinical studies with older compounds have yielded inconsistent results. This is the first study to translate these effects into a clinical benefit.

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