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.

New class of cancer drugs could work in colon cancers with genetic mutation, study finds

April 25, 2011
A class of drugs that shows promise in breast and ovarian cancers with BRCA gene mutations could potentially benefit colorectal cancer patients with a different genetic mutation, a new study from the University of Michigan ...

Recommended for you

Drug suppresses spread of breast cancer caused by stem-like cells

December 12, 2017
Rare stem-like tumor cells play a critical role in the spread of breast cancer, but a vulnerability in the pathway that powers them offers a strategy to target these cells using existing drugs before metastatic disease occurs, ...

MRI scans predict patients' ability to fight the spread of cancer

December 12, 2017
A simple, non-invasive procedure that can indicate how long patients with cancer that has spread to the brain might survive and whether they are likely to respond to immunotherapy has been developed by researchers in Liverpool.

A new weapon against bone metastasis? Team develops antibody to fight cancer

December 11, 2017
In the ongoing battle between cancer and modern medicine, some therapeutic agents, while effective, can bring undesirable or even dangerous side effects. "Chemo saves lives and improves survival, but it could work much better ...

Insights on how SHARPIN promotes cancer progression

December 11, 2017
Researchers at Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery (SBP) and the Technion in Israel have found a new role for the SHARPIN protein. In addition to being one of three proteins in the linear ubiquitin chain assembly complex ...

Glioblastoma survival mechanism reveals new therapeutic target

December 11, 2017
A Northwestern Medicine study, published in the journal Cancer Cell, has provided new insights into a mechanism of tumor survival in glioblastoma and demonstrated that inhibiting the process could enhance the effects of radiation ...

Liver cancer: Lipid synthesis promotes tumor formation

December 11, 2017
Lipids comprise an optimal energy source and an important cell component. Researchers from the Biozentrum of the University of Basel and from the University of Geneva have now discovered that the protein mTOR stimulates the ...

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.