Aspirin May Be a Cancer Knock-Out

Colorectal cancer patients with gene mutation may live longer with aspirin therapy

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Colorectal cancer is one of the diseases that daily aspirin therapy may prevent. This inexpensive over-the-counter drug may now be useful in helping some colorectal cancer patients live longer.

People with colorectal tumors containing a specific genetic mutation had significantly higher 5-year survival rates - 97 percent - than patients who didn’t take aspirin regularly - 74 percent.

Aspirin use did not extend the lives of those whose tumors did not have a mutation in the gene PIK3CA.

"Ask your doctor about aspirin therapy."

These are the findings of a recent study involving more than 900 people with colorectal cancer. The researchers caution these results have to be duplicated in future studies before they can be considered definitive findings.

The study’s senior author, Shuji Ogino, MD, PhD, of Dana-Farber, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and the Harvard School of Public Health, said in a press release, “For the first time, we have a genetic marker that can help doctors determine which colorectal cancers are likely to respond to a particular therapy.”

Researchers estimate that about one in five people with colorectal cancer has this genetic mutation.

The study came about following previous research suggested that aspirin scrambles the signaling of an enzyme called PI3K. Scientists involved in this study had a theory that aspirin could be effective in blocking PIK3CA, which is part of the PI3K enzyme.

Researchers examined information about aspirin use and PIK3CA mutations in 964 patients with either colon or rectal cancer who participated in the Nurses’ Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study.

The data included information on the patients’ use of aspirin after diagnosis and the presence or absence of PIK3CA mutations in their tumor tissue.

The authors concluded, “Along with other molecular tests such as MSI, KRAS and BRAF analyses, which are becoming increasingly routine in colorectal cancer, 41 PIK3CA mutation analysis could be implemented as a standard clinical test. Thus, our results may have considerable clinical implications. “

They note that this study should encourage a placebo-controlled clinical trial to confirm these findings.

This study was published October 25 in the New England Journal of Medicine.

One of the study’s authors was a consultant of Bayer Healthcare, Millennium Pharmaceuticals and Pfizer Inc.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
October 24, 2012
Last Updated:
October 25, 2012