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Combining NSAIDs With Chemotherapy May Improve Cancer Therapy

Until recently, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like aspirin and celecoxib (sold as Celebrex), were being hailed as promising cancer prevention drugs . However, the latest studies have concluded that in most cases the adverse side effect of these drugs -- including risk of cardiovascular and kidney disease -- outweigh the potential benefit.

However, certain NSAIDs may be better suited to treating cancer, in combination with standard therapies, rather than preventing it, according to new research by scientists at the University of Iowa Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine.

"The real debate comes down to use of these compounds in two settings: cancer prevention, which involves long-term use of a drug, and cancer treatment involving short-term, focused use of the drug," said Douglas Trask, M.D., Ph.D., UI associate professor of otolaryngology head and neck surgery. "Published studies show that heart and kidney problems occur with long-term use, especially when used for more than one year. While there appear to be cardiorenal effects of NSAIDs even with short-term use, these risks may be minor compared to the potential benefit to treat cancer more effectively."

Two new UI studies show that the NSAID celecoxib has potent anticancer activity, which is associated with the drug's ability to disrupt the cell cycle -- the orderly, multi-step process by which cells divide.

In particular, the experiments showed that celecoxib specifically kills head and neck cancer cells in the S phase of the cell cycle, where the cell synthesizes new DNA and replicates its genetic material.

"The finding that the cell killing effect takes place in S phase is particularly exciting because one of the standard therapies for most cancers -- chemotherapy -- often has its maximal effect at that stage of the cell cycle," Trask said. "We're hopeful that our results will lead to a clinical trial where we
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