A new study, conducted by British researchers, has found that a drug to prevent bone thinning helps some cancer patients to live longer.
Patients with osteoporosis, or brittle bone disease, are often given drugs to strength their bones and slow down the thinning.
These drugs can also be given to cancer patients who are suffering with bone loss symptoms such as those with multiple myeloma, where cells in the bone marrow destroy bone leaving it weakened.
The largest and most comprehensive study yet has now found that one of the drugs, called zoledronic acid, improves survival in those cancer patients as well as preventing bone loss.
Professor Gareth Morgan, of The Institute of Cancer Research, London, UK, and Professors Walter Gregory and Anthony Child, of Clinical Trials Research Unit at University of Leeds compared zoledronic acid against a similar drug, clodronic acid in a group of almost 2,000 patients.
It was found that zoledronic acid reduced mortality by 16 per cent and extended overall survival by 5·5 months from 44.5 months to 50 months when compared with clodronic acid.
"The improvement in overall survival with zoledronic acid remained significant after adjustment for the reduction in risk of skeletal-related events. These data add to growing clinical evidence supporting anticancer benefits with zoledronic acid in patients with newly diagnosed cancers," the Telegraph quoted the authors as saying.
"Although we have not definitively identified the underlying mechanism of action, the early improvement in overall survival with zoledronic acid compared with clodronic acid supports early use of zoledronic acid in multiple myeloma," the authors added.
The findings were published in The Lancet medical journal and presented at the American Society of Hematology meeting in Orlando, Florida.