San Antonio: Doctors were mostly hoping to prevent complications and relapses when they gave young women a medicine to keep their bones strong during breast cancer treatment. Seven years later, they found it did more than that: The bone drug improved survival, as much as many chemotherapies do.The study found a 37 percent lower risk of death among women who received the bone drug, Zometa. In absolute terms, it meant that 4 to 5 more women out of every 100 were alive seven years later.It`s especially impressive considering that the women took the drug, given as an infusion every six months, for only three years."The benefit persists" long after treatment ends, said study leader Dr. Michael Gnant of Austria`s Medical University of Vienna. He presented the research this week at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium.Zometa (zow-MAY-tuh) should now be offered to all patients like those in this study — younger women forced into early menopause by hormone-blocking cancer treatments, some specialists said."It`s a new standard of care," said Dr. James Ingle, a Mayo Clinic breast specialist who had no role in the study.Bone drugs called bisphosphonates — sold as Fosamax, Boniva and Actonel — have long been sold for treating osteoporosis. Those are daily pills. Zometa, made by the Swiss company Novartis AG, is given intravenously to treat cancer that has spread to the bone.Hope that it could do more grew in 2008, when Gnant reported that it lowered the risk of a cancer recurrence in a study of 1,800 premenopausal women with early-stage breast cancer. All had surgery followed by hormone blockers, and half also received Zometa.
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