Aspirin doubles survival rates in certain cancer patients

A new study suggests that Aspirin can double the survival rates for certain types of cancer if taken once a day.

A recent study reveals the true benefits of Aspirin to cancer patients, who in some cases can double their chances of survival by taking a tablet just once a day. According to a report from Medical News Today, patients with gastrointestinal cancers can have a much higher chance of surviving if they take aspirin once a day.

Researchers led by Dr. Martine Frouws of Leidin University Medical Center in the Netherlands, has shown that aspirin can not only help treat gastrointestinal cancer, but it can help prevent the disease in the first place. Recent reports that aspirin could help reduce the risk of colorectal cancer have surfaced on news outlets, and additional research suggests that aspirin may help the response in patients receiving blood treatments for breast, skin, and bowel cancers.

Dr. Frouws and her colleagues wanted to determine how aspirin influences the survival rate in patients with tumors in their gastrointestinal tracts, including the rectum, the colon, and the esophagus. While these regions are all situated in different places in the body, each is associated with the same system involved in digesting food.

The study looked at 13,715 patients who were diagnosed with some form of GI cancer between 1999 and 2011. The doctors followed the patients for a median of 48.6 months, and found that 42.8 percent of patients had colon cancer, 25.4 percent had rectal cancer, and 10.2 percent had esophageal tumors.

The researchers linked patient data with information on the drugs administered to see how aspirin use affected the outcomes of different GI cancer patients. The drug dispersing information was gathered from the PHARMO Institute in Utrecht in the Netherlands.

Dr. Frouws noted that the study analyzed separate prescriptions for each patient, and was able to fish out a more accurate estimate of the real effects aspirin had on cancer survival rates.

Dr. Frouws and her team found that overall, nearly 31 percent of patients had used aspirin regularly before their GI cancer diagnosis, while only 8.3 percent continued to use it after being diagnosed. 61 percent of the participants did not take aspirin on a regular basis.

The study found that across each different type of gastrointestinal cancer, nearly 28 percent of the patients survived for a minimum of five years. Patients who used aspirin during their bout with GI cancer were found to be twice as likely to survive than patients who stopped using aspirin after being diagnosed, or patients that didn’t use aspirin at all.

The study’s findings held up after controlling for various factors including age, sex, the stage of the cancer, the types of treatments the patient was receiving, and other medical issues.

While researchers still aren’t quite sure how aspirin exactly helps prevent death from cancer, they are confident that their results were not influenced by any other factors they failed to consider. Some researchers believe that aspirin’s antiplatelet properties could be partially responsible. Circulating tumor cells, or CTCs, use platelets in the blood to block themselves from the immune system’s antibodies. Aspirin blocks the function of blood platelets, which leaves CTCs vulnerable to attack from white blood cells and other antibodies.

Even though the optimal dose of aspirin and the recommended duration of its use have not been accurately determined, researchers still believe that aspirin is safe to use and could provide real benefits to a number of patients suffering from GI cancers.

Aspirin is inexpensive and off patent, which means it can be manufactured by a wide range of different companies. It has few serious side effects, and can produce a large net positive effect on the nation’s healthcare systems and patients.

Dr. Frouws explained the medical research field’s transition to focusing on personalized medicine, but noted that many personalized treatments can be extremely expensive and are typically only effective in small populations. By determining the beneficial effects of a popular and common drug like aspirin, she believes that more people could benefit as a whole while freeing up more resources to study more personalized treatments.

The research team will continue to study the effects of aspirin on cancer survival rates, as they plan to conduct a randomized, placebo-controlled trial that seeks to determine how an 80 mg dose of aspirin affects elderly patients suffering from colon cancer specifically.

Factors like genetics have been shown to influence the effectiveness of aspirin on patients suffering from GI cancer as well. A genetic analysis in 2013 showed that while aspirin still increased overall survival rates in women suffering from GI cancer, people that had two variants of a specific gene, SNP rs16973225 – AC or CC, showed no measurable response to taking aspirin. While these variations are rare, they can be instrumental in understanding which patients could benefit from aspirin.

As researchers continue to search for the optimal dose and frequency of aspirin treatment, they become one step closer to developing a simple preventative treatment for one of the nastiest cancers around.

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