Doctors discover 'surprise' breast cancer breakthrough

Amanda Abate

Australian researchers have been surprised to discover a drug commonly used to treat Osteoporosis also works to fight breast cancer.

New research has found calcium-binding Bisphosphonates used in a treatment for Oesteoperosis could be a breakthrough for treating cancer in breast tissue.


"This was really astonishing for us because the drugs have been used for 40 years to treat patients with bone disease,” Professor Mike Rogers from the Garvan Institute of Medical Research said.

The drug works by leaking out of the vein and attaching to tiny calcifications in the breast tissue before immune cells devour the clumps, and clear the mutated cells away.

"What was really surprising was that the drug not only got into the cancer, but bound to small areas in the cancer,” Dr Tri Phan said.

Researchers were surprised to discover calcium-binding Bisphosphonates used in a treatment for Oesteoperosis could also treat breast cancer. Photo: 7News
Researchers were surprised to discover calcium-binding Bisphosphonates used in a treatment for Oesteoperosis could also treat breast cancer. Photo: 7News

It has already been used to prevent bone destruction in late stage cancer patients.

But for the first time, the drug has proven to destroy cancer, outside the skeleton before it spreads.

A clinical trial of more than 3000 breast cancer patients found the bone drugs had a dramatic impact, specifically on post-menopausal women, increasing their rate of survival by up to 25 per cent.


“I think it's really exciting and it's got really great potential to make a huge difference,” Dr Alison Butt from the National Breast Cancer Foundation said.

Studies are underway - to test if the same drugs have the same effect on other types of cancer.