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Thursday, 27 December, 2001, 14:38 GMT
Drug tackles cancer and brittle bone
X-ray scan
Osteoporosis affects one in three UK women
British scientists have helped develop a new drug which could have a dual role treating osteoporosis and preventing breast cancer.

The team at Hull Royal Infirmary, has collaborated on an international project to produce a hormone treatment for women.

The hospital's Centre for Metabolic Bone Disease is one of only three academic institutions carrying out the UK trial of Tibolone, which was developed by the Dutch company Organon.

Tibolone uses three hormones - progestogen, oestrogen and androgen.

Preliminary evidence is strong enough for a formal trial to see if we have an anti-osteoporosis agent which will also prevent breast cancer

Professor David Purdie, Hull Royal Infirmary
Loss of these hormones at the menopause can lead to osteoporosis and the risk of potentially life threatening fracture in middle-aged and older women.

Hull's team leader, Professor David Purdie, said: "Treating osteoporosis-led fractures presently costs the NHS 1.7bn a year and with the continuing increase in our elderly population, the problem is going to get worse unless something positive is done about it.

"We urgently need a safe, reliable and economic treatment for women at risk of osteoporosis, so that fractures may be prevented.

Five-year trial

"Half of all British women develop osteoporosis by the age of 75 and, although not all of them will fracture, they are at high risk after even a simple fall."

About 4,000 people in Europe and the US are involved in the Long term Intervention on Fracture with Tibolone (Lift) trial, which will take five years to complete.

The Hull team has been awarded 569,000 for its part in the project.

Osteoporosis facts
One in three women and one in 12 men over 50 will develop osteoporosis
Every three minutes someone has a fracture as a result of osteoporosis
An estimated 3 million people in the UK suffer from osteoporosis
Professor Purdie said: "Tibolone has elements of all three of the hormones that are associated with the menopause, but unlike conventional HRT it does not appear to adversely affect the female breast.

"Indeed, preliminary evidence is strong enough for a formal trial to see if we have an anti-osteoporosis agent which will also prevent breast cancer."

Many women reject HRT because of the higher risk of breast cancer associated with the drug.

An agent which acts like an oestrogen, but without the side-effects, would be a significant breakthrough.

See also:

15 Dec 01 | Health
Osteoporosis cases 'being missed'
20 Oct 01 | Health
'I felt my spine fracture'
04 Jun 01 | Health
Osteoporosis 'runs in families'
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