A study conducted by the University of Alabama at Birmingham and recently published in medical journal Lung Cancer suggests adding zoledronic acid to treatment regimens may help mesothelioma cancer victims combat the rare and deadly lung cancer. The drug is in a class of bisphosphonates commonly used to treat osteoporosis and prevent skeletal fractures in cancer patients. Researchers believe the drug may be particularly useful for treating patients in the later stages of malignant mesothelioma.
According to the study, the drug reduced the buildup of fluid in the lungs, known as pleural effusions, and helped growth of new tumor blood vessels in animal trials. Zoledronic acid may help block cell signaling pathways essential for the growth of cancer cells. Although the drug may not be the knockout punch to kill mesothelioma tumors, the research suggests zoledronic acid, sold as Reclast or Zometa for bone disease, can help put the brakes on tumor growth.
Researchers evaluated a number of factors including the patients’ levels of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and biomarkers mesothelin and osteopontin. Clinicians used positron emission tomography (PET) imaging to track the patient’s’ response to the drug. Patients who failed to respond to treatment were found to have already higher levels of VEGF and osteopontin prior to treatment.
Human clinical trials conducted by the university researchers involved eight male subjects with median age of 62 years. All of the subjects has pleural mesothelioma, a form of cancer affecting the thin lining of tissue around the lungs. Six of the participants suffered from epithelioid mesothelioma, a condition in which epithelial cells mutate into cancerous mesothelioma tumors following asbestos exposure.
The subjects were chosen because they had either failed to respond to previous mesothelioma treatments or the disease was at an advanced stage where chemotherapy would have resulted in serious adverse health effects. At least three of the participants benefited from the regimen, which involved received intravenous infusions of zoledronic acid. Those patients saw either a reduction or stabilization of tumor growth.
The average survival term of patients was seven-months, while the longest was 21-months. While these figures may seem insignificant for some, these subjects were likely in the final throngs of the disease’s progression. Furthermore, when suffering from a terminal and incurable disease, a few additional months amongst family and friends can mean a world of difference.
Researchers also found the drug did not result in significant toxicity to the patient. One of the major drawbacks to mesothelioma treatments like chemotherapy is the harsh side effects that can result in nausea, hair loss, and loss of energy.
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