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New drug targets breast cancer (1/7/97)

There's good news for women who have breast cancer, especially women who's cancer has spread to the bones. A new drug just approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is designed to help breast cancer sufferers and approximately 500,000 other Americans who have cancer that has spread to the bone, a condition called bone metastasis.

The new drug is called Aredia and is made by Ciba Geigy. Aredia helps bones fight off the cancer cells. Gregory R. Mundy, MD, professor and head, division of endocrinology and metabolism, The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, helped test the drug. "The human bone is like fertilizer for tumor cells, like manure. Tumor cells spread like crazy in bone," he says.

Before Aredia, breast cancer patients who had bone metastasis didn't have an effective treatment available for the bone complications. "Once bone metastasis happened, from that moment on, there was really only treatment to reduce the symptoms. Nothing could really be offered as a curative for the patient," says Dr. Mundy. But with the introduction of Aredia, the rate of complications like pain and fracture can be lowered and the rate of growth of cancer cells in the bone can be slowed down.

The FDA approval of Aredia is a milestone in the treatment of breast cancer that has spread to the bone, comments Dr. Mundy. He also adds, "It paves the way for many new drugs on the horizon."

In the United States, 190,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer every year and 45,000 die from the devastating disease. Worldwide, 350,000 new cases of breast cancer are reported and 600,000 lose their lives.

Contact: Myong Covert (210) 567-2570