Genes may determine aspirin's effect on advanced colon cancer

October 24, 2012 by Steven Reinberg, Healthday Reporter
Genes may determine aspirin's effect on advanced colon cancer
Study finds taking it appears to slow tumor growth in patients with a particular genetic mutation.

(HealthDay)—For patients suffering from advanced colorectal cancer, aspirin may prolong their lives if their tumor has a certain gene mutation, a new study finds.

"Aspirin appears to work to increase survival of colorectal patients if the tumor has PIK3CA mutation, but does not work if the tumor does not have PIK3CA mutation," said lead researcher Dr. Shuji Ogino, an associate professor in the department of epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health.

About 20 percent of have PIK3CA mutations, according to the study.

"PIK3CA can be potentially tested as a predictive for colorectal ," Ogino said.

"Doctors may be able to make a decision to treat or not to treat with aspirin, based on a PIK3CA test result," he added. "So a PIK3CA test can potentially make a difference to patients."

Ogino cautioned, however, that the findings need to be confirmed.

"An independent validation study is needed before PIK3CA testing can be a part of routine clinical work-up," he said.

For the study, which was published in the Oct. 25 issue of the , Ogino's team collected data on more than 900 patients with colorectal cancer who were part of the Nurses' Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study.

The data included their use of aspirin, and whether they had the PIK3CA .

The researchers found that 97 percent of the patients with the mutation who were taking aspirin were alive five years after being diagnosed, compared with 74 percent of similar patients who weren't taking aspirin.

Aspirin, however, had no effect on prolonging life among patients who didn't have the PIK3CA gene mutation, the study showed.

Earlier research suggested aspirin could block an enzyme that slows in patients with this particular gene mutation, Ogino said, which is why they decided to do the study.

The optimal aspirin dose is unknown, Ogino said. "Baby aspirin may work, but we need more studies about dose," he noted.

Dr. Boris Pasche, director of hematology/oncology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, said, "While several new drugs have demonstrated efficacy in metastatic colorectal cancer in the past decade, only one of them (oxaliplatin) has proven useful in warding off tumor recurrence in patients with locally advanced disease.

Aspirin has benefits in preventing colorectal cancer, but its role in the treatment of established colorectal cancer is yet to be defined, he said.

"If validated in additional studies, aspirin could become a new drug to be added to the regimen, which is currently the worldwide standard of care for patients with stage III colorectal cancer," Pasche said. "It would significantly improve the outcome of patients with stage III colorectal cancer that carry mutations of the PIK3CA gene."

For Pasche, who wrote an accompanying journal editorial, the bottom line is, "an old drug may become a 21st century targeted therapy ushering [in] a tangible personalized medicine application in colorectal cancer."

Although the researchers found an association between taking and longer life among colorectal cancer patients, a cause-and-effect relationship was not proven.

Explore further: Should aspirin be used to prevent cancer?

More information: For more information on colon cancer, visit the American Cancer Society.

Related Stories

Should aspirin be used to prevent cancer?

October 1, 2012

Aspirin, the everyday drug taken by countless people around the world to ward off pain and reduce their risk of developing heart disease, may have a new trick up its sleeve –-preventing cancer.

Recommended for you

'Jumonji' protein key to Ewing's sarcoma rampage

March 24, 2017

By the time Ewing's Sarcoma is diagnosed, primarily in teens and young adults, it has often spread from its primary site to other parts of the body, making it difficult to treat. A University of Colorado Cancer Center study ...

In a sample of blood, researchers probe for cancer clues

March 24, 2017

One day, patients may be able to monitor their body's response to cancer therapy just by having their blood drawn. A new study, led by bioengineers at UC Berkeley, has taken an important step in that direction by measuring ...

Researchers gain insight into breast cancer drug resistance

March 24, 2017

Breast cancer's ability to develop resistance to treatment has frustrated researchers and physicians and has thwarted even the latest and greatest targeted therapies. For example, after researchers identified a disease pathway ...

Is there a link between telomere length and cancer?

March 23, 2017

Telomeres are regions of repetitive DNA at the end of human chromosomes, which protect the end of the chromosome from damage. Whilst shorter telomeres are hypothesized biological markers of older age and have been linked ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.