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Last Updated: Monday, 15 March, 2004, 03:48 GMT
New pill helps breast cancer care
Hand holding pill
A new pill could help women with secondary bone cancer
Women with breast cancer that has spread to the bone could benefit from a new pill they can take at home.

Bondronat helps to stop cancer from spreading into the bone, while also reducing pain and the risk of fracture.

Up to 80% of women with advanced breast cancer will develop secondary bone cancer, and most have to visit hospital in order to receive treatment.

This drug has fewer side-effects than its predecessor, a bigger pill that has been linked to gastric problems.

The drug has also been shown to provide patients with up to two years pain relief.

The pain caused by bone cancer is often severe and constant, and can be resistant to pain killers such as morphine.

Convenient pill

The active ingredient in Bondronat - ibandronic acid - is one of a group of drugs called bisphosphonates usually administered to patients intravenously to treat the condition.

Ibandronic acid has previously been used throughout Europe to treat people with dangerously high levels of calcium.

The new drug, developed by pharmaceutical company Roche, does not appear to cause or exacerbate kidney problems, which has been an issue for patients taking related types of bone cancer treatment.

Patients with bone cancer can also undergo surgery, where a metal pin is inserted into the bone to strengthen it, or radiotherapy, which kills off the cancerous cells.

Delyth Morgan, chief executive of Breakthrough Breast Cancer, said Bondronat will help women with advanced breast cancer to live a more normal life.

"The convenience of being able to take a tablet at home without the need of a hospital visit and any associated anxiety could significantly improve the quality of life for many of these women."

Christopher Poole, MacMillan Senior Lecturer in Medical Oncology at Birmingham University, said reducing the number of breast cancer patients requiring hospital visits could also help to take pressure off cancer services in the NHS.

He added that many women with advanced breast cancer often don't know they have developed bone cancer.

The convenience of being able to take a tablet at home...could significantly improve the quality of life for many of these women
Delyth Morgan,
Breakthrough Breast Cancer

"They may just think they have a bad back," he said.

Symptoms of bone cancer include bone pain, weakness in the affected bones and raised calcium levels in the blood.

It can cause vertebrae to fracture and spinal-cord or nerve-root compression, which can lead to paralysis.

One in nine women in the UK will develop breast cancer at some point in her life.

However, survival for women with breast cancer has improved significantly over the past 30 years.

Around 74% of women will now survive breast cancer, compared to only 55% in the early 1970s.

Breast drug cuts cancer comeback
09 Oct 03  |  Health
Big hopes for breast cancer drug
30 Sep 03  |  Health
Extra months for cancer patients
09 Aug 03  |  Health

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