The bone drug zoledronic acid, considered a potentially promising weapon against breast cancer recurrence, has flopped in a new study involving more than 3,360 patients. The drug, long used to combat bone loss from osteoporosis, did not appear to prevent breast cancer from returning or to boost disease free survival overall. British researchers presented the disappointing findings Thursday at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium in Texas.
"As a whole, the study is negative," study author Dr. Robert Coleman, a professor of medical oncology at the University of Sheffield in England, said during a Thursday news conference on the findings. "There is no overall difference in recurrence rates or survival rates, except in older patients, defined as more than five years after menopause." That was a possible bright spot in the results.
"In that population, there is a benefit," Coleman said. The older women had a 27 percent improvement in recurrence and a 29 percent improvement in overall survival over the five-year follow-up, compared to those who didn't get the drug. "There was tremendous hope that this [drug] approach would be a major leap forward," Coleman noted. "There have been other trials that suggest this is the case." In one previous study, the use of the drug was linked with a 32 percent improvement in survival and lowered recurrence in younger women with breast cancer.