Rx Prevents Breast Cancer Survivor Bone Loss

Zometa prevents aromatase inhibitor related bone loss

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Breast cancer survivors who are taking certain medications are at higher risk for bone loss.  An available drug has been shown to overcome this serious side effect.

Aromatase inhibitors (AIs) are extremely effective at preventing a recurrence of breast cancer. And while potentially life-saving, these medications can cause bone loss and fractures.

Recent studies show that Zometa (zoledronic acid), an osteoporosis drug, protects against bone loss in women who are taking AIs.

"If you're taking an aromatase inhibitor, ask your oncologist if Zometa may be appropriate for you."

Postmenopausal women are frequently prescribed AIs to block estrogen that drives the most common forms of breast cancer.

Adam Brufsky, MD, PhD, of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, and colleagues conducted a five-year study to see if Zometa could prevent and treat bone loss in postmenopausal breast cancer patients taking AIs.

Femara (letrozole) was given to 602 postmenopausal women with early breast cancer. Participants were randomly selected to receive  Zometa at the same time they were taking Femara or only after bone loss or fractures occurred.

Women who were given Zometa at the time they started Femara had significant bone density increases throughout the five year study period.

In contrast, those who started the drug after bone loss or a fracture occurred, saw significant decreases in bone density tests, although this decline slowed over time.

Dr. Brufsky told dailyRx that this study showed that "IV bisphosphonates like Zometa are safe and effective in the long term management of AI-induced bone loss."

He says that Zometa is not currently routinely prescribed at the beginning of AI therapy and suggests, "If you are a woman at risk for bone loss from an AI (about 30% of women on AIs), I would consider asking for it."

If you are currently taking an AI, Dr. Brufsky recommends, "I would be sure that you have a bone density, and follow-up with appropriate steps like exercise, calcium and vitamin D and potentially a bisphosphonate."

Zometa is currently approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of osteoporosis and cancer bone metastasis (spread) and complications.

Both Zometa and Femara are manufactured by Novartis.

This study was published online in Cancer, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
October 12, 2011
Last Updated:
December 2, 2013