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Bone Drug May Help Treat Multiple Myeloma

Study Shows Zometa May Improve Survival for Patients With Multiple Myeloma
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WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

Dec. 3, 2010 -- Adding the intravenous bone drug Zometa to chemotherapy improves survival in patients with the blood cancer multiple myeloma, new research from the U.K. shows.

Patients treated with Zometa (zoledronic acid) lived an average of five and a half months longer than patients taking clodronic acid, an oral bone drug that is not used in the U.S.

Zometa and other drugs in the class known as bisphosphonates are also used in the treatment of breast cancer with bone involvement and other solid tumors that have spread to the bone.

The study is the first to show a survival benefit for a bisphosphonate in multiple myeloma patients, and its lead author says it should be considered the bone drug of choice in those with the disease.

But a multiple myeloma specialist who spoke to WebMD is not so sure. S. Vincent Rajkumar, MD, of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., says the intravenous bisphosphonate Aredia (pamidronate), which is also widely use to treat the cancer in the U.S., may be just as effective.

“This study confirms the value of giving an IV bisphosphonate monthly to patients with myeloma-related bone disease, which is what oncologists in the U.S. have been doing,” he says. “We now know there is a survival benefit with Zometa. Since Aredia wasn’t studied, we don’t know if the same benefit exists with this drug.”

Prevalence of Multiple Myeloma

Around 20,000 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with multiple myeloma each year and an estimated 10, 650 people will die of the disease, according to the American Cancer Society.

Slightly less than one in three patients live for five years or more following diagnosis of the bone marrow cancer. Bone weakening and bone lesions are a common symptom of the disease, with around 70% of patients having bone lesions at diagnosis.

The newly published study included 1,960 patients in the U.K. with newly diagnosed disease treated with the standard chemotherapy at the time along with either Zometa or the oral bisphosphonate clodronic acid, which is used in Europe but not the U.S.

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