Aspirin Aids Gastrointestinal Cancer Survival Rate


Overall survival rate nearly doubles in patients who used aspirin post-diagnosis.

Gastrointestinal cancer survival is improved when patients begin an aspirin regimen after their diagnoses, according to results of a study presented at the 2015 European Cancer Congress in Vienna, Austria.

Researchers from the Leiden University Medical Center in the Netherlands analyzed 13,715 patients with a diagnosed gastrointestinal cancer between 1998 and 2011 to determine the association between aspirin use after a cancer diagnosis and overall survival. The elderly patients were randomized into groups to receive either 80 mg daily aspirin or placebo.

“Given that aspirin is a cheap, off patient drug with relatively few side effects, this will have a great impact on healthcare systems as well as patients,” explained trial coordinator Martine Frouws, MD in a press release.

The most common tumor sites were colon (42.8% of patients), rectum (25.4% of patients), and esophagus (10.2% of patients). The patients were followed up with after an average period of about four years, with 28% of patients surviving for at least five years.

“In most observational studies an ‘intention to treat’ method (once an aspirin user, always an aspirin user) is used for analyzing aspirin’s effect,” Frouws continued. “We analyzed each separate prescription per patient, and therefore we were able to achieve a more exact estimate of the effect of aspirin on cancer survival. Now we would like to analyze tumor material from these patients to try and discover which ones would benefit from aspirin treatment. Through studying the characteristics of tumors in patients where aspirin was beneficial, we should be able to identify patients who could profit from such treatment in the future.”

The researchers found there was a significant increase in overall survival among the patients who took aspirin after their diagnoses compared to those patients that did not. About a third of patients used aspirin prior to their diagnosis, roughly 8 percent only used aspirin after their diagnosis, and nearly two thirds had not taken aspirin at all.

The patients who used aspirin after their diagnosis saw their overall survival rate increase to about twice as high over patients who did not use aspirin after their diagnoses. The benefits of aspirin were seen even after adjusting for patient factors like sex, age, stage of cancer, surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy, and other medical conditions and disorders.

The anti-platelet effect of aspirin may be the mechanism behind the benefits of the drug on cancer. Even though several of medical research is focused on personalized treatments, Frouws concluded, they are expensive and often only useful in small populations. By using aspirin, a widely available and cheap alternative, the research team can make cancer treatment accessible for many.

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