Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as aspirin and ibuprofen, have been shown to dramatically increase the survival rate for more than 30% of cases involving head and neck cancers, according to a recent study from the University of San Francisco. The report notes an increase from 25% to 78% for the initial five years after diagnosis.
Clinical trials conducted on a group of 266 participants suffering from head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC), one of the most widespread epithelial malignancies in the world and associated with particularly poor prognosis, determined that patients benefited greatly from regular use of NSAIDs. This form of therapy was effective against strands presenting PIK3CA genetic alterations.
“Our results suggest that the use of NSAIDs could significantly improve outcomes for not only head and neck cancer patients, but also patients with other cancers that contained the PIK3CA mutation”, commented lead author Jennifer R. Grandis, MD, UCSF professor of otolaryngology. “The magnitude of the apparent advantage is strong, and could potentially have a positive impact on human health”.
Among head and neck carcinoma, PIK3CA is the most frequent mutation accounting for approximately 34% of all tumors carrying alterations. For HNSCC linked with the human papillomavirus (HPV), PIK3CA is mutated in more than half of tumors.
The American Society of Clinical Oncology estimates about 65,000 new cases of head and neck cancer each year, 4% of the annual diagnoses. The average age for patients is above 50, but it can also develop at younger ages.
Investigators observed that regular use of NSAID for at least six months provided a “markedly prolonged” survival in patients whose PIK3CA gene was mutated or amplified. They speculate that the drugs are likely inhibiting tumor growth by reducing the production of an inflammatory molecule called prostaglandin E2.
“NSAID use likely confers a statistically and clinically significant advantage in overall survival in PIK3CA-altered head and neck cancer through direct interaction between the PI3K and COX pathways”, noted Dr. Grandis.
Most of the study participants were taking aspirin, a common over-the-counter pain reliever. Cheap, widely available and safe, this type of drug could offer significant benefits to many cancer patients currently dealing with their disease.
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