WASHINGTON, Jan. 12 (UPI) -- The painkiller diclofenac, a common painkiller used to treat migraine, fever and rheumatoid arthritis, may hold significant anti-cancer properties, according to new research.
Diclofenac is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug, or NSAID, a type of painkiller that has shown promise to prevent cancer, however researchers in Belgium and the United States report the drug could play an important role in treating cancer based on previous studies and in-progress clinical trials.
The drug, sold as Voltaren, Zipsor, Solaraze, and Cambia, among other names, is cheap and widely available. Researchers said excitement over the drug's potential use for cancer is based on its effects on the immune system and on angiogenesis, the development of blood vessels that move oxygen and nutrients to tissues.
"It's still somewhat surprising that there is still so much we don't understand about how many of the standard drugs we use every day, like diclofenac, work," said Dr. Pan Pantziarka, a researcher at the Anticancer Fund, in a press release. "But the more we learn, the more we can see that these drugs are multi-targeted agents with interesting and useful effects on multiple pathways of interest in oncology."
For the study, published in ecancermedicalscience, researchers analyzed previous studies dating back to 1983 that showed the drug could have anti-tumor effects against fibrosarcoma, colorectal cancer, neuroblastoma, ovarian cancer and several others.
Retrospective analysis of medical records for patients with a range of cancers who were treated with diclofenac before surgery to remove tumors showed the drug had a statistically significant impact on the risk of metastasis and reduced mortality.
There are currently four clinical trials investigating diclofenac's effects on cancer, including three that use the painkiller as part of TL-118, an experimental four-drug combination.
Pantziarka said the studies may show NSAIDs have an effect of preventing metastasis in patients with cancer, because, "after all, it's metastatic disease that most often kills patients, not the original primary disease."