Osteoporosis drug protects bones from breast cancer metastasis – study

Reuters / Eric Gaillard

Reuters / Eric Gaillard

Some breast cancers are damaging bone structure to “prepare” the tissue for metastasis spread, European scientists have discovered, claiming that common osteoporosis medication can slow the process and increase survival chances for thousands.

The new study by The Institute of Cancer Research,
London, singled out that the LysYl Oxidase (LOX) enzyme released
from the original malignant tumor creates holes in bone, making
it more susceptible to cancer cells.

The discovery is crucial for fighting metastatic breast cancer as
it tends to spread to the bone in about 85 percent of secondary
breast cancer patients. Breast cancer is the most common cancer
among women.

Scientists believe that identifying LOX in ER negative breast
cancer at an early stage of treatment could offer doctors the
possibility of blocking the enzyme’s proliferation, thus
preventing bone damage and the spread of metastasis, ultimately
halting the progression. The study was published in the journal

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“This is important progress in the fight against breast
cancer metastasis and these findings could lead to new treatments
to stop secondary breast tumors growing in the bone, increasing
the chances of survival for thousands of patients,”
said a
co-author of the study, Dr. Alison Gartland at the University of
Sheffield’s Department of Human Metabolism.

Cheap drugs used in osteoporosis treatment, new research suggests
could be used to save lives. Bisphosphonates class of drugs that
is prescribed to prevent the loss of bone mass showed good
results in mice studies.

“We are really excited about our results that show breast
cancer tumors send out signals to destroy the bone before cancer
cells get there in order to prepare the bone for the cancer
cells’ arrival,”
Gartland said.

At the next level of research scientists hope to discover exactly
how the tumor secreted LOX interacts with bone cells. This will
enable the scientists to start developing new drugs.

“Once cancer spreads to the bone it is very difficult to
treat. Our research has shed light on the way breast cancer cells
prime the bone so it is ready for their arrival,”
co-leader Dr Janine Erler, an Associate Professor at the Biotech
Research Innovation Centre (BRIC) at the University of
Copenhagen, said. “If we were able to block this process and
translate our work to the clinic, we could stop breast cancer in
its tracks thereby extending patients’ lives.”

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