A classic drug could become our cheapest and safest new cancer drug.

When you think of drugs used to treat cancer, you often think of drugs that are expensive that attack not only the cancer cells but also your own cells. They often cause severe side effects and aren’t always effective. There is a class of very common and relatively inexpensive drugs, however, that are showing promise in their ability to treat tumor cells.


Bisphosphonates are a very common class of drug that are often prescribed to treat osteoporosis. They work by inhibiting osteoclasts that break down bone into minerals to be used by the body. Another property of bisphosphonates that is being investigated is their effect on tumor cells. They have shown evidence to work against tumor cells in five different ways. They can trigger tumor cells to undergo apoptosis, inhibit tumor cell adhesion, and prevent tumor angiogenesis or blood vessel development. In addition to these direct effects on tumor cells, bisphosphonates can help the body better defend against the tumor cells by inhibiting macrophages produced by the tumor as well as activating a certain class of cytotoxic T-cells. Lastly, bisphosphonates exhibit a synergistic relationship with a number of anti-tumor drugs, providing an opportunity for them to be added to cancer patients’ existing medication regimens.


These properties of bisphosphonates are exciting and worth devoting more time and money into researching them. A cheap, and safe drug that can be used to treat cancer could be a potential breakthrough in the complex and expensive field of oncology. With more research, we could very well see bisphosphonates as a part of every cancer patient’s medication regimen.


Acker, H. H., Anguille, S., Willemen, Y., Smits, E. L., & Tendeloo, V. F. (2016). Bisphosphonates for cancer treatment: Mechanisms of action and lessons from clinical trials. Pharmacology & Therapeutics, 158, 24-40.



3 thoughts on “A classic drug could become our cheapest and safest new cancer drug.”

  1. It would definitely be exciting to see an everyday drug such as any bisphophonates being used to treat cancer. They would have far less negative side effects, however you can’t help but wonder how effective they would be at their regular doses used for osteoporosis. It’s certainly worth the research in terms of time and money to devote to biphosphonates as a cheaper alternative to chemotherapy or radiation.

  2. I really enjoyed this article because it shows promise in the treatment of cancer. You are correct in saying that many cancer drugs treat cancer cells but also harm healthy cells, and if bisphosphonates (which are cheap and safe) can be used to treat cancer, it will certainly be a breakthrough in the field of cancer! I am excited to see if bisphosphonates will be prescribed more to treat cancer, and what their success rate will be!

  3. That is very interesting that a relatively common medication may be effective in targeting cancer cells. I wonder, though, how the oral drug will be able to be concentrated at cancer cells to only target those cells and not other rapidly dividing cells to cause adverse effects. If this drug is actually effective in treating cancer, it would make available a less intrusive treatment option for cancer, but I fear that the price of this drug will be increased significantly in response to the newfound indication.

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