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.
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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