Preventing Lung Cancer may be Possible

Celebrex may keep lung cancer at bay in smokers

(RxWiki News) Even though someone has quit smoking, he or she still has an elevated risk of developing lung cancer. New research has discovered a common drug may decrease some of those risks.

Celebrex, known generically as celecoxib, may actually prevent the development of lung cancer. This medicine is a COX-2 inhibitor, which effectively treats both pain and inflammation. In recent research, Celebrex was shown to offer significant benefits in lowering the risks of lung cancer in people who had previously been smokers.

"Celebrex may prevent lung cancer in people with a smoking history."

The research involved 137 patients aged 45 years or older who had stopped smoking for at least one year. Participants were randomly given either 400 mg of Celebrex twice a day, or a placebo -- an inactive substance.

Researchers performed tests at the beginning of the study and at six months to measure changes in the Ki-67 labeling index, which can be a predictor of the presence or course of cancer. Participants who were given Celebrex saw this index reduced by 34 percent compared to a 3.8 percent increase with the placebo group.

In addition to decreases in the index, patients also had fewer lung nodules which usually form before lung cancer appears.

These findings support another report published in Cancer Prevention Research in 2010 that showed a similar effect on Ki-67 among both former smokers and current smokers.

Both findings suggest that Celebrex may be used as a preventive medication among groups at high risk for lung cancer, says Jenny Mao, M.D., a professor of medicine at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine and section chief of pulmonary and critical care medicine at the New Mexico VA Health Care System.

According to J. Jack Lee, Ph.D., a professor of biostatistics at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center and the statistical editor of Cancer Prevention Research, there are an estimated 45 million former smokers and 45 million current smokers living in the United States.

He adds that the arsenal of treatments is not well stocked, and that unless lung cancer is caught early on, the five-year survival rate is only about 15 percent.

So the best tools would be either prevention or detection of lung cancer at its very earliest stages. Celebrex holds promise for being just such a tool.

Mao adds a note of caution, saying that the studies to date have been phase II trials and that large phase III trials are needed to confirm all findings.

This study was published in Cancer Prevention Research, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research.

Review Date: 
July 6, 2011