Adding to Aspirin’s Star Power — Slowing Tumor Growth

Aspirin may halt growth of inner ear tumor vestibular schwannoma

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) The most common pain reliever used by Americans — aspirin — is being used to assist with a number of serious medical conditions. And aspirin may aid with yet another potentially lethal condition.

Vestibular schwannomas, also called acoustic neuromas, are slow-growing tumors that develop in the nerves of the inner ear. While not cancer, these tumors can cause ringing in the ears, hearing loss and even death.

A new study found that people with vestibular schwannomas (sVS) who were regular aspirin users had slower growth of their tumors than people who didn’t take aspirin routinely.

The researchers suggest these findings should prompt further studies that examine the effectiveness of using aspirin to slow sVS tumor growth.

"If you’re experiencing balance problems, let your doctor know."

Konstantina Stankovic, MD, PhD, a Massachusetts Eye and Ear clinician-researcher and assistant professor of otology and laryngology at Harvard Medical School, along with colleagues reviewed the records of hundreds of patients who had been diagnosed with sVS at the institution.

sVS develops in the balance and hearing nerves of the inner ear. The condition can lead to loss of hearing, compress the brainstem and cause problems inside the skull.

There are no known medication therapies for sVS, so treatment options for these tumors inside the skull include surgery or radiation, both of which carry their own risks of complications.

Dr. Stankovic and team carefully analyzed the records of 689 people, 122 (18 percent) of whom were aspirin users and 587 (82 percent) of whom did not take aspirin regularly. The aspirin users had other conditions, such as heart disease, for which they were on a long-term aspirin regimen. Regular users took 81 mg to 325 mg of aspirin daily.

About half of the participants (367) underwent regular multiple magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans for at least four months to track their tumor’s behavior.

The researchers found that 59 percent of the aspirin users saw no tumor growth, compared to 43 percent of the non-users. Tumor growth was seen in 41 percent of those who took aspirin routinely, while the tumors of 57 percent of non-users grew.

“A potential use of aspirin to control sVS growth has many attractive features, including its ease of use, a generally favorable side-effect profile, and association with reduced risk of other diseases such as different types of cancer or cardiovascular disease,” the authors of this study wrote. “The potential benefits will need to be balanced against potential harmful effects of long-term aspirin use, such as gastrointestinal bleeding and peptic ulcer disease.”

This study was published in the February issue of Otology & Neurotology.

This study was supported by the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders and the Bertarelli Foundation.

The authors disclosed no conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
January 31, 2014
Last Updated:
February 28, 2014