Date Published: 15 January 2010

Breast cancer sufferers offered new hope

A short course of treatment with a drug combination regularly given to breast cancer patients is sufficient to destroy breast tumours, according to new research from the University of Sheffield.

The research, which was published today, has shown that a combination of two treatments given over a period of just six weeks is as effective as treatment given for six months.

A previous study by the same team at the University´s Academic Unit of Clinical Oncology, showed for the first time that a combination of doxorubicin, a chemotherapy drug commonly given to stop tumour growth, and zoledronic acid, a well tolerated treatment given to protect bone in advanced breast cancer, almost completely eliminated breast tumours when given in a particular sequence.

Senior lecturer Dr Ingunn Holen and her team, funded by Breast Cancer Campaign, have now tested whether this result could be achieved by short term use of this combination in mice, or whether continued and prolonged treatment was needed to stop the tumours growing back.

The scientists treated half the group with the combination every week for six months and the other half for just six weeks.
In both groups, tumours shrank from their original size and became barely detectable. The comparisons in the study, published in the International Journal of Cancer, showed that a weekly course of combination therapy for just six weeks is as effective as the longer treatment.

Senior lecturer Dr Ingunn Holen from the University of Sheffield´s Academic Unit of Clinical Oncology, said:

" These findings are very promising and show that a significant reduction in tumour growth is maintained for a long time using this combination. Clinical studies in patients are now needed to verify these results."

Arlene Wilkie, Director of Research and Policy, Breast Cancer Campaign, funders of both studies said,

" While it is vital that scientists continue to look for the next generation of breast cancer treatments, it is equally important to ensure that current treatments work to the best of their ability. Research into drug combinations is producing some excellent results. These findings provide further evidence that breast cancer patients may benefit from sequential treatment with doxorubicin followed by zoledronic acid".

" We know that chemotherapy can be an unpleasant experience with debilitating side effects such as nausea and tiredness. If we can cut treatment time, and still achieve the same results it will help to improve the quality of life of thousands of women being treated for breast cancer and improve their chances of survival."


Source: Sheffield University (UK).

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