WEDNESDAY, Oct. 24 (HealthDay News) -- For patients suffering from advanced colorectal cancer, aspirin may prolong their lives if their tumor has a certain gene mutation, a new study finds.
"Aspirin appears to work to increase survival of colorectal cancer patients if the tumor has PIK3CA mutation, but does not work if the tumor does not have PIK3CA mutation," said lead researcher Dr. Shuji Ogino, an associate professor in the department of epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health.
About 20 percent of colorectal cancers have PIK3CA mutations, according to the study.
"PIK3CA can be potentially tested as a predictive genetic marker for colorectal cancer patients," Ogino said.
"Doctors may be able to make a decision to treat or not to treat with aspirin, based on a PIK3CA test result," he added. "So a PIK3CA test can potentially make a difference to patients."
Ogino cautioned, however, that the findings need to be confirmed.
"An independent validation study is needed before PIK3CA testing can be a part of routine clinical work-up," he said.
For the study, which was published in the Oct. 25 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, Ogino's team collected data on more than 900 patients with colorectal cancer who were part of the Nurses' Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study.
The data included their use of aspirin, and whether they had the PIK3CA gene mutation.
The researchers found that 97 percent of the patients with the mutation who were taking aspirin were alive five years after being diagnosed, compared with 74 percent of similar patients who weren't taking aspirin.
Aspirin, however, had no effect on prolonging life among patients who didn't have the PIK3CA gene mutation, the study showed.
Earlier research suggested aspirin could block an enzyme that slows tumor growth in patients with t
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