Breast cancer sufferers in Northern Ireland were yesterday warned that a new ‘miracle’ cure for the illness may not be imminent.
Cancer Research UK issued the caution after new research revealed that a treatment for brittle bones has a dramatic effect on the disease when combined with chemotherapy.
Scientists at the University of Sheffield found that the two drugs — doxorubicin and zoledronic acid — acted together to slow down the growth of tumours.
In mice given the therapy, growing breast tumours were almost stopped in their tracks.
A clinical trial is now under way in the UK which could lead to the treatment becoming widely available, but Dr Joanna Peak, science information officer at Cancer Research UK, said it was still early days.
“Establishing the most effective combinations of drug treatments and the timings in which they are given is an important area of clinical research,” Dr Peak said.
“But the benefits of giving zoledronic acid after doxorubicin have only been shown here in mice.
“They will now need to be evaluated more fully in people with breast cancer before we know if this will be an effective treatment option for women with the disease in Northern Ireland.”
The university carried out a study to determine the effects of combining the chemotherapy agent doxorubicin and the bone-protecting drug zoledronic acid on the growth of established breast tumours.
The treatments were given alone, in sequence and in combination to find the most effective order to give them.
The results, published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, show that treating breast cancer using doxorubicin followed 24 hours later by zoledronic acid has a dramatic result; almost complete elimination of breast tumour growth.\[mcclew\]If these results are translated into the clinic, it could ultimately lead to improved chances of survival for thousands of women currently undergoing breast cancer treatment.
Project leader Dr Ingunn Holen said the study showed that treatment with the chemotherapy agent doxorubicin followed by zoledronic acid kills breast tumours.
“These results suggest that a patient may benefit the most if these two drugs are given in this particular order,” he said.
“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."