London: A drug commonly used to treat bone metastases in patients with lung cancer may also help prevent the disease from spreading, a new Italian study has claimed.
Researchers found that the drug, zoledronic acid, may be very useful at an earlier stage to prevent cancer metastases from recruiting the new blood vessels they need to survive.
This process of recruiting new blood vessels is called angiogenesis.
"Our investigation represents the first clear clinicalevidence of the anti-angiogenic effect of zoledronic acid in patients with metastatic lung cancer," said Dr Michela Quirino who led the research at the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart in Rome.
"It also represents the first biological basis in lung cancer for the clinical investigation of zoledronic acid not only for metastatic lung cancer, but also in early disease."
Dr Quirino presented their findings at the European Multidisciplinary Conference in Thoracic Oncology being held in Lunago, Switzerland.
For their study, the researchers recruited 41 patients with advanced lung cancer.
Each patient was administered 4 mg of zoledronic acid, and their blood levels of several molecular markers of angiogenesis were measured before and 48 hours after the
injection. Those markers included the molecules VEGF, PDGF, b-FGF and HGF.
"We found a statistically significant reduction of VEGF levels at day two after 4 mg ZA intravenous infusion compared with basal values," Dr Quirino said.
Blood levels of bFGF were also significantly reduced.
"Some studies reported that VEGF secretion is induced by bFGF and this could support our results," she added.
The researchers did not record any significant effect of injecting the drug on the levels of the other two mediators of angiogenesis, PDGF and HGF.
Treatment with zoledronic acid is already an important treatment to manage bone metastases from lung cancer, Dr Quirino said, adding that some studies have already shown that zoledronic acid in bone metastases from lung cancer improves
clinical outcomes and patient survival.
"If further studies should confirm a possible anti-metastatic effect of this drug, possibly relying also on its anti-angiogenic effect, it could be introduced in the
early management of the disease, even as an adjuvant therapy," she added.
Prof Ken O`Byrne from St James`s Hospital in Ireland said the results "lay the groundwork for evaluating the potential role of zoledronic acid in the treatment of lung cancer independently of the effects on bone metastases".