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NSAIDs are common pain relievers and medicines that help reduce fever and blood clots.

Pain killer medicines can help improve survival in head and neck cancer

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A study done by the researchers of the University of California suggests that nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are predicted to improve survival for patients suffering from head and neck cancer. This study was published in the Journal Experimental of Medicine on January 25, 2019.

NSAIDs are common pain relievers and medicines that help reduce fever and blood clots. The most common nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) used are naproxen, aspirin, and ibuprofen.

According to the study, the survival rates improve in those patients whose cancer consisted of an altered gene called PIK3CA. The patients in whom altered PIK3CA gene was missing remained unaffected by the use of NSAID.

PIK3CA is the most commonly altered gene in head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC). HNSCC is cancer of head and neck that arises from squamous cells. Every year approximately 600,000 cases of head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC ) are reported.

HNSCC is mostly found in men. The main cause of this cancer is heavy alcohol consumption, smoking and tobacco use. Previous studies have shown that regular use of aspirin acts as a protection against HNSCC.

During this study, 266 patients from the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center were examined by the authors. Patients whose tumors were surgically removed were part of this study.

67% of patients received post-surgery radiotherapy and/or chemotherapy. 28% of the patients in the study had an activating alteration of the PIK3CA gene.

During the study, the authors learned that patients with regular use of NSAIDs for at least six months “markedly prolonged” improvement as compared to patients not using NSAIDs whose PIK3CA gene was mutated.

According to the authors, the study had certain limitations. These limitations included timings, dosages of NSAID and the size of the study group.

Jennifer Grandis, MD, a professor at University of California and also the lead author of this study said that “adjuvant NSAID administration may significantly improve outcome in many PIK3CA-altered cancers. The implication of our findings may provide a dramatic impact on human health.”

According to the authors, “The present study is the first to demonstrate a significant advantage in both disease-specific survival and overall survival among HNSCC patients taking regular NSAIDs that is dependent on the presence of a somatic PIK3CA alteration.”

The authors have planned a forthcoming clinical trial to address the limitations faced in this study.

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