These common drugs may help people survive head, neck, lung cancer

In a new study, researchers found that low-dose aspirin and other anti-inflammatories may improve survival in patients undergoing treatment for some head/neck and lung cancers.

This means common drugs that sit in nearly everyone’s medicine cabinet could help extend the lives of some cancer patients.

The research was conducted by a team from Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center.

The study is among the first to suggest a benefit in overall survival for patients with either head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) or early-stage non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) who received non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) — most commonly, low-dose aspirin — alongside standard radiation therapy or chemoradiation therapy.

NSAIDs, which have anti-inflammatory and anti-platelet properties that help decrease the risk of cardiovascular events, are often prescribed to reduce the risk of heart disease.

The team examined 460 patients who received chemotherapy and conventional radiation therapy as a treatment for HNSCC.

The team reports that taking low-dose “baby” aspirin or other NSAIDs along with their cancer treatment increased survival by 8% at five years in this group of patients.

The study in lung cancer examined data for 164 patients receiving stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT) for early-stage NSCLC.

SBRT is a form of radiotherapy that involves precise delivery of radiation to tumors, using intense beams from several angles.

This limits the exposure and, thus, the damage to nearby organs. It can be an effective treatment for cancer patients who may not benefit from surgery.

The study showed a strong overall-survival advantage in patients taking aspirin and undergoing SBRT for early-stage lung cancer compared to those who were not.

The median overall survival was 2.4 years versus 2 years, and two-year overall survival was 57% in patients taking aspirin versus 48% in patients not taking it.

Future studies are needed to more exactly identify which patients may benefit from aspirin use, the researchers note.

The lead author of the study is Austin Iovoli, MD, a trainee from the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at the University at Buffalo (UB).

The study was presented at the American Society for Therapeutic Radiation Oncology (ASTRO) Annual Meeting.

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