A study presented at the recent 2015 European Cancer Congress in Vienna suggests that aspirin – one of the world’s most basic and common forms of medication – may be a very effective way to increase the survival chances of people with gastrointestinal cancer.
The research corroborates previous studies that suggest aspirin, despite its being extremely common, may be one of the best ways to prevent and treat any type of cancer. For gastrointestinal cancer, the study claims that aspirin can double one’s chances of survival, which adds to the drug’s supposed ability to reduce the chances of colorectal cancer and improve boost treatment response for those who are suffering from breast, bowel, or skin cancers. This is the first study, though, to gauge survival rates based on different types of gastrointestinal cancer.
The study was led by Dr. Martine Frouws of the Netherlands’ Leiden University Medical Center, and involved 13,715 patients who were given a gastrointestinal cancer diagnosis between 1998 and 2011. 42.8 percent of the patients had colon cancer, 25.4 percent had rectal cancer, and 10.2 percent had esophageal cancer. These patients were followed up on for a median time of slightly over four years – 48.6 months – and data on the subjects was liked with drug dispensing statistics from Utrecht’s PHARMO Institute. According to Frouws, her team analyzed each separate prescription per patient, thus allowing them to come up with a more accurate estimate of how aspirin increases one’s cancer survival rate.
It was revealed that about 30.5 percent of all patients used aspirin before they were diagnosed with gastrointestinal cancer, but only 8.3 percent took the drug after their diagnosis. 61.1 percent did not take aspirin at all, either before or after diagnosis. Across the three types studied, about 28 percent had survived for five years or more. But the most revealing takeaway from the study was how patients who used aspirin after being diagnosed had a two times better chance of survival than those who didn’t. This takeaway was consistent even after Frouws and associates took several variables into account, including age, gender, cancer stage, type of cancer treatment, and whether the patients had other medical conditions or not.
The researchers believe aspirin is so effective because it has some antiplatelet properties. As circulating tumor cells supposedly make use of platelets – the so-called “warriors” of the bloodstream – that allows the CTCs to be impervious to the immune system. But since aspirin hinders platelets from working like they should, that could result in CTCs becoming vulnerable to attack.
Frouws believes that her team’s discovery could be a breakthrough, considering how aspirin is very common and affordable, though she added that more research may be needed. “Given that aspirin is a cheap, off-patent drug with relatively few side effects, this will have a great impact on health care systems as well as patients,” she said. “…we believe that our research shows quite the opposite – it demonstrates the considerable benefit of a cheap, well-established and easily obtainable drug in a larger group of patients, while still targeting the treatment to a specific individual.”