A daily dose of aspirin can double the life expectancy of patients with cancers affecting the gastrointestinal tract, according to a new study.
It was already known that that frequent use of aspirin can prevent bowel cancer, but the most recent study also suggests that men and women with a range of cancers who take the anti-inflammatory painkiller experience a significant survival benefit compared with those who do not.
The study of 14,000 cancer patients in the Netherlands found that regular users of aspirin were twice as likely to still be alive after a four-year period as those who did not take the cheap drug.
According to the report’s authors, the impact of aspirin on survival was seen after adjusting for factors such as gender, age, stage of cancer, treatments, and other medical conditions that could have influenced death rates.
The trial coordinator, Dr Martine Frouws, from Leiden University in the Netherlands – who presented the findings at the 2015 European Cancer Congress in Vienna – said the findings could have a “great impact” on patients and national healthcare systems.
“Now we would like to analyse tumour material from these patients to try and discover which ones would benefit from aspirin treatment,” Frouws said.
“Through studying the characteristics of tumours in patients where aspirin was beneficial, we should be able to identify patients who could profit from such treatment in the future. Given that aspirin is a cheap, off-patent drug with relatively few side-effects, this will have a great impact on healthcare systems as well as patients.”
The most common tumour sites for patients in the study were the colon, rectum and oesophagus.
Following on from the study, a randomised controlled trial is investigating the effect of a daily low dose of 80mg of aspirin on the survival of elderly patients with bowel cancer in the Netherlands. At a later date, the study is to cover gastrointestinal cancers and hopes to provide convincing proof that more patients can benefit from aspirin treatment. Researchers are comparing the effects of taking aspirin with a placebo.
Prof Peter Naredi, scientific co-chair of the congress, said: “We have good evidence that the frequent use of aspirin in the population can prevent some cases of colorectal (bowel) cancer. Now, Frouws and colleagues show that in over 13,000 patients who were diagnosed with a gastrointestinal cancer, aspirin also improved survival compared with those who did not use it.
“With more and more data to support the beneficial role of aspirin, we must consider whether we should recommend it to a wider public.”
[hr] Source: ECCO-the European CanCer Organisation