Cancer of the cervix, as well as other types of cancer, are known to grow and spread by creating new blood vessels -- a process known as angiogenesis, writes researcher Enrico Giraudo, PhD, a biochemist in the Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of California, San Francisco.
More than 10,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer each year -- nearly 4,000 will die from the disease, according to the American Cancer Society. When found and treated early, cervical cancer often can be cured. Screening for early cervical cancer with Pap smears has significantly decreased deaths.
Giraudo's study involved Zometa, a drug that is already FDA-approved to treat cancer that has spread to bone. Recent studies have shown that Zometa and similar drugs help prevent blood vessel growth by inhibiting an enzyme called MMP.
In a series of experiments, mice with cervical cancer similar to that in humans were treated with Zometa. Indeed, the drug hampered growth of new blood vessels -- effectively slowing tumor growth, he reports.
After six weeks of treatment with Zometa, blood vessels to the cervical cancers decreased by 56% compared with mice that didn't receive Zometa. In addition, Zometa decreased the number and size of tumors.
The researchers say that Zometa may be an effective treatment for preventing progression of precancerous tumors into cervical cancer as well as stopping further progression of cervical cancer.
Giraudo suggests that Zometa be added to current cervical cancer treatments to improve the overall effectiveness of standard treatments.