Bisphosphonates: Prevention of Bone Metastases in Breast Cancer

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Disease recurrence and distant metastases remain challenging for patients with breast cancer despite advances in early diagnosis, surgical expertise, and adjuvant therapy. Bone is the most common site for breast cancer metastasis, and the bone microenvironment plays a crucial role in harboring disseminated tumor cells (DTCs), a putative source of late relapse in and outside bone. Therefore, agents that affect bone metabolism might not only prevent the development of bone lesions but also provide meaningful reductions in the risk of relapse both in bone and beyond. Bisphosphonates bind to mineralized bone surfaces and are ingested by osteoclasts, wherein they inhibit osteolysis, thereby preventing the release of growth factors from the bone matrix. Therefore, the bone microenvironment becomes less conducive to survival and growth of DTCs and bone lesion formation. Recent trials of zoledronic acid in the adjuvant setting in breast cancer have demonstrated reduced disease recurrence in bone and other sites in premenopausal and postmenopausal women with early breast cancer. Based on the proven effect of bone protection during adjuvant endocrine therapy, new treatment guidelines recommend the routine use of bisphosphonates to prevent bone loss during adjuvant therapy, which may likely become the standard practice.