Bone loss caused by breast cancer-fighting drugs can be minimized through the use of an osteoporosis drug, according to a new study published in the journal Cancer.
Zoledronic acid, a bone drug made by Novartis, was found to be effective for postmenopausal women undergoing breast cancer treatment.
“It’s probably not going to work for women who are premenopausal,” Dr. Adam Brufsky, lead study author, said. “You should know about your bone health after getting breast cancer therapy and talk to your doctor about it.”
The five-year study published in the journal Cancer followed 600 postmenopausal women who were undergoing treatment for early stage breast cancer with the drug aromatase inhibitor letrozole, which stops the production of estrogen. Unfortunately, if taken for an extended period of time, the lifesaving drug can lead to bone loss and fracture.
Research discovered that the earlier cancer patients started taking zoledronic acid, the greater success the medication had in preventing bone loss.
“It’s better to prevent bone loss from ever happening than to start treating once it has started happening,” said Dr. Otis Brawley, M.D., chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society.
Although the study found the drug to be safe and effective, Brawley warns that it does come with potential side effects including joint pain, kidney dysfunction, and jaw problems.
“I would encourage patients to discuss concerns about osteoporosis (with their doctors) if they are getting breast cancer treatment.”