Dual Blockers Tackle Oral Cancer

Oral cancer in rats responds well to dual inhibitor licofelone

(RxWiki News) Oral cancers are on the rise, due in part to the fact that the HPV virus is spreading its menace. A drug that’s being studied in phase 3 clinical trials may tackle the cancer before it gets started.

The experimental compound called licofelone may be useful in preventing and treating oral cancers at their very earliest stages.

"Go to the dentist at least once a year."

Licofelone is both a pain reliever and an anti-inflammatory. It’s a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID).

COX (cyclooxygenase, which promotes inflammation) inhibitors are known to hold various cancers at bay, including oral cancer. However, the side effects can be too much for some.

In addition to tamping down inflammation, licofelone also blocks a chemical called 5-LOX (5-lipoxygenase), which seems to reduce serious NSAID side effects such as stomach bleeding.

Researchers tested the effects on a rat model, using two dosages of licofelone: 37.5 mg/kg per day and 75 mg/kg per day. Another group of animals was given 75 mg/kg per day after a six-week delay following the start of cancer.

In rats that received a placebo, 75 percent developed the most common form of oral cancer seen in humans – squamous cell carcinoma which usually develops at the back of the tongue.

The researchers found that 43 percent receiving the high dose of licofelone developed cancer, compared to 55 percent that got the lower dose.

Those that got the drug 6 weeks after the cancer started had an even lower incidence – 34 percent.

Treated rats also had fewer cases of the most invasive types of oral cancer – 17 percent compared to 54 percent in controls.

While cancer incidence was down in the rats that received the drug, these animals did get more precancerous lesions.

“The data suggest the compound inhibits cancer progression,” said lead researcher, David McCormick, PhD, senior vice president and director at the ITT Research Institute in Chicago.

“The lower incidence of invasive cancer and higher incidence of cancer precursors indicate we may be stabilizing progression at the earlier, precancerous stage,” Dr. McCormick said in a news release.

This study was presented at a press conference at the 11th Annual AACR International Conference on Frontiers in Cancer Prevention Research hosted by Ernest Hawk, MD, MPH, vice president and head of the Division.

Before publication in a peer-reviewed journal, research is considered preliminary.

This research was funded by the National Cancer Institute.

Review Date: 
October 17, 2012