Thousands of women’s lives could be saved after scientists in Sheffield discovered a way to stop breast cancer spreading to bones.
Experts hope the findings will slash breast cancer death rates, which affects more than 50,000 people in the UK every year.
Scientists at Sheffield University say they have discovered a way of stopping cancerous cells from burrowing into a patient’s bones.
Secondary tumours in bones is the cause of roughly 85 per cent of the 12,000 breast cancer deaths seen in the UK every year.
But the team has discovered a type of drug which may stop cancer penetrating the bones in around 30 per cent of cases.
The drugs, called bisphosphonates, are already used to treat osteoporosis.
The discovery, published in the journal Nature, still needs to be verified in further clinical trials.
But if the trials are successful, the fact that the drugs are already licensed for human use should accelerate their deployment.
The team, led by experts at Sheffield University, hope that trials will show the drugs can effectively isolate breast cancer in the most at-risk patients, stopping the disease from spreading.
Primary tumours in the breast are relatively easy to deal with, because they can be removed with surgery or targeted with chemotherapy, radiotherapy or other drugs.
But when the cancer spreads to other parts of the body - a process known as metastasis - it can become less easy to treat.
Research co-leader Dr Alison Gartland, a bone specialist at The University of Sheffield, said: “This is really exciting.
“This is important progress in the fight against breast cancer metastasis, increasing the chances of survival for thousands of patients.”
Her team discovered that ER-negative breast tumours release an enzyme called LysYl Oxidase - or LOX - which attacks the bones.
The enzyme creates holes in the bones’ surface, allowing the cancerous cells to enter.
Samia al Qadhi, of charity Breast Cancer Care, said: “The findings in this early research indicate an exciting step towards a better understanding of how some breast cancers spread to the bones.”