Anti-inflammatory drugs increase colon cancer survival

PHS researchers show 20 percent drop in mortality with prior NSAID use
Dr. Polly Newcomb
Dr. Polly Newcomb and colleagues found regular NSAID use earlier in life for those at risk of colon cancer may prevent occurrence and inhibit more aggressive disease. Photo by Scott Sutherland

Regular use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs prior to diagnosis of colorectal cancer is associated with improved survival, according to findings published in the Nov. 4 online edition of the journal Gut. Researchers in the Hutchinson Center’s Public Health Sciences Division report that regular NSAID use earlier in life for those at risk of colon cancer may prevent occurrence and inhibit more aggressive disease or alter the course of the disease after diagnosis.

The findings have implications in weighing the risks and benefits of long-term use of aspirin and/or ibuprofen, according to Dr. Polly Newcomb, corresponding author of the paper.

In this study, the largest to date looking at the role of NSAID use prior to colon cancer diagnosis, the researchers found the impact on survival may require long-term use of NSAIDs. The decrease in mortality was most significant for patients with proximal disease. This sub-site insight is important because screening is less effective at decreasing deaths in patients with cancers in this part of the colon and proximal disease has a poorer prognosis. Previous studies have shown that regular NSAID use is associated with a lower risk of developing colon cancer and a lower rate of recurrence.

The researchers examined more than 1,700 cases of colorectal cancer from the Center-based Seattle Colon Cancer Family Registry. Detailed information on history of NSAID use, including type and duration, was collected through an interviewer-administered questionnaire.

Newcomb is co-principal investigator of the Seattle Colon Cancer Family Registry, one of six sites worldwide to study genetic and environmental factors in colon cancer. Through interviews and examination of lab specimens, the research team is comparing thousands of colon cancer patients with their relatives to better understand why certain people develop cancer while others remain healthy. This resource is fueling research on how factors known to increase the risk of developing colon cancer may also impact outcomes.

Study authors include Anna Coghill and Drs. Andrea Burnett-Hartman, Neli Ulrich, Scott Adams and John Potter, all of PHS, as well as former Center researcher Drs. Elizabeth Poole and the American Cancer Society’s Dr. Peter Campbell.
The National Cancer Institute funded the research.

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