Breast cancer can certainly be deadly, but often, fatalities result from the spread of cancer to other organs, like the bones.
Fortunately, scientists at the University of Sheffield in England discovered a treatment that may prevent breast cancer from spreading to the bones.
Even better, the medication is already FDA approved and inexpensive.
In the UK, nearly 85 percent of breast cancer deaths are tracked to secondary tumors in the skeletal system. However, bisphosphonates — drugs commonly used to treat osteoporosis — prevent breast cancer from entering the bones about 30 percent of the time.
In collaboration with the Institute of Cancer Research in London and the University of Copenhagen, Sheffield researchers uncovered the way cancer cells burrow into the bones.
Furthermore, they learned osteoporosis medication prevents this process, most notably in those with the ER-negative form of the disease.
In a statement, coauthor Dr. Alison Gartland, a bone specialist at the university, said,
This is really exciting. ER-negative patients are the ones with the poorest prognosis — they are the ones who really need identifying and treating. This is important progress in the fight against breast cancer metastasis, increasing the chances of survival for thousands of patients.
The researchers are conducting additional studies and trials to determine the effectiveness of the drugs on larger populations, but according to Dr. Gartland,
Of the mice we tested, none developed metastatic tumors.
If this treatment is approved, patients will begin taking the bisphosphonate pills immediately after diagnosis to prevent the spread of cancer. It is important to treat early, as coauthor Dr. Janine Erler explains, because once cancer does spread to the bone, it's incredibly difficult to treat.
This news comes on the heels of another important breakthrough in cancer research that revealed the herpes virus may be the key to treating skin cancer.