Osteoporosis Drug Halts Breast Tumors, Duke Study Finds

Monday, 17 Jun 2013 05:32 PM

By Nick Tate

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A drug approved in Europe to treat osteoporosis has been shown to stop the growth of breast cancer tumors, including some that can’t be treated by existing therapies.
According to a Duke Cancer Institute study, presented this month at the annual Endocrine Society meeting in San Francisco, the drug bazedoxifene packs a powerful one-two punch that not only prevents estrogen from fueling breast cancer cell growth, but also targets the tumor for destruction.
"We found bazedoxifene binds to the estrogen receptor [in tumor cells] and interferes with its activity, but the surprising thing we then found was that it also degrades the receptor; it gets rid of it," said lead researcher Donald McDonnell, head of Duke's Department of Pharmacology and Cancer Biology.

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The Duke research, which involved animal and human cancer cells, suggests the drug may even be effective in cases where patients are not benefitting from anti-estrogen tamoxifen and/or to the aromatase inhibitors, two of the most widely used types of drugs to prevent and treat estrogen-dependent breast cancer.
Currently, if breast cancer cells develop resistance to these drugs, patients have to undergo toxic chemotherapy agents that have significant side effects.
The study was funded by a research grant from Pfizer Pharmaceuticals, maker of bazedoxifene.

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