Zometa Seems to Improve Response to Chemotherapy

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Zometa (chemical name: zoledronic acid) is a medicine used to strengthen bones in women diagnosed with advanced-stage breast cancer that has spread to the bone. Zometa can reduce bone pain and the risk of fractures. Besides benefits for bones, evidence is growing that Zometa also may slow breast cancer growth.

A study found that adding Zometa to chemotherapy given before surgery for stage II or stage III breast cancer was more beneficial than chemotherapy alone. Treatments given before surgery are called neoadjuvant treatments. These results were presented at the 2008 San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium.

Half of 205 women diagnosed with stage II or stage III breast cancer were given standard chemotherapy along with Zometa before surgery. The other half of the women were given only standard chemotherapy before surgery.

The results:

  • Breast cancers treated with chemotherapy and Zometa before surgery shrunk 32% more than cancers treated with chemotherapy alone.
  • There were no signs of cancer at the time of surgery in 11% of the women who got chemotherapy and Zometa, compared to only 6% of the women who got chemotherapy alone. No signs of cancer after neoadjuvant treatment is called "complete pathologic response."
  • Women who got Zometa and chemotherapy before surgery were less likely to have a mastectomy instead of a lumpectomy after neoadjuvant treatment was done, compared to women who got only chemotherapy before surgery -- 65% of the women whose treatment included Zometa had a mastectomy, compared to 78% of women who didn't get Zometa.

While these results are promising, they are EARLY results. More research is need to figure out if Zometa can be used safely for more than strengthening bones in breast cancer treatment.

Zometa belongs to a group of medicines called bisphosphonates. Bisphosphonates help prevent bone loss and can build bone strength in healthy women as well as women being treated for breast cancer. Other bisphosphonates are:

  • Fosamax (chemical name: alendronate)
  • Actonel (chemical name: risedronate)
  • Aredia (chemical name: pamidronate)
  • Bonefos (chemical name: clodronate)
  • Boniva (chemical name: ibandronate)
  • Reclast (chemical name: zoledronic acid, but a different formulation than Zometa)

Some bisphosphonates, such as Fosamax and Actonel, are pills taken by mouth. Zometa, Aredia, and Bonefos are given intravenously.

If chemotherapy before surgery is part of your treatment plan, you might want to ask your doctor about the results of this study and whether adding Zometa to your treatment plan makes sense for you.

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