Among long-term colorectal cancer (CRC) survivors, use of NSAIDs is associated with about a 25 percent reduction in all-cause mortality, according to new research from Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center (J Clin Oncol 2017; doi:10.1200/JCO.2017.72.3569).
The study further suggests that NSAIDs such as aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen have a particularly advantageous effect when taken after diagnosis by colorectal patients without tumor mutation in the KRAS gene (KRAS wild-type tumors). The study shows NSAID use by this group is associated with a survival benefit of 40 percent.
“Several other studies have shown an association between NSAIDs and preventing CRC, but this is the first to look so thoroughly at how timing of NSAID use relative to diagnosis and tumor type could make a big difference in survival,” said Polly Newcomb, PhD, MPH, an epidemiologist in the Public Health Division at Fred Hutch and senior author of the study. “These results should spark conversations between patients and their doctors. NSAID use is an accepted practice to prevent cardiovascular disease, and their use as a tool against cancer merits similar consideration and study.”
The observational study used data from 2,419 newly diagnosed patients in the Colon Cancer Family Registry. The researchers were able to divide patients into four groups: those who took the drugs before as well as after diagnosis, those who initiated use post-diagnosis, those who quit use post-diagnosis and those who did not use them at all. The researchers also employed tumor-marker testing by genotyping patient samples to pinpoint tumor mutations and tumor type.
To get the most accurate results, Newcomb and the research team controlled for factors such as smoking status, family history, age, and other characteristics and then conducted statistical analyses to determine potential association of NSAID use to both overall and disease-specific survival. The team found some differences in type of NSAID and outcome, which they attribute to different patterns of use, such as dose or duration, rather than due to the type of NSAID.
Some limitations of the study include that it relied upon patients to self-report their NSAID use and the generalizability of the study may apply only to long-term CRC survivors. The team recommends that future efforts include a more racially diverse population.