Lung cancer is a notoriously difficult-to-treat disease, largely because it's usually not caught in its early stages.
"Lung cancer is an extraordinarily challenging tumor type," confirmed Dr. Howard Sandler, moderator of the news conference and a professor of radiation oncology and urology at the University of Michigan.
Prevention, therefore, becomes key. Quitting smoking or never smoking, of course, greatly reduces the risk for this disease. But there are people who beat the odds even if they smoke, just as there are nonsmokers who do develop lung cancer.
"We need to continue to refine what a high-risk population is, both clinical and biological characteristics, and that leads us into biomarkers," Kim said. The researchers were primarily interested in how Celebrex might affect Ki-67, a protein that may be related to cell proliferation.
The cox-2 enzyme is expressed in both precancerous lesions in lung tissue, as well as in lung cancer, and it has an inflammatory aspect that can stimulate more cell growth within the lung.
This study involved more than 200 patients, all of whom had a history (current or prior) of a greater than 20-pack-years cigarette habit. All participants underwent biopsies at the opening of the study, at three months and again at six months.
They were then randomized to take either Celebrex or a placebo for three months, after which they either continued on that course or switched to the other arm.
Over three months, high-dose Celebrex (400 milligrams twice a day) did reduce expression levels of Ki-67, as well as the cox-2 enzyme and a third biomarker, NF-kappa-B.
The effect was seen in both current and former smokers but was stronger in current smokers, Kim said.
No cardiac side effects were seen in the group, although previous research showed a benefit to Celebrex in reducing colon
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