Jan. 28 (UPI) -- Taking aspirin and ibuprofen regularly significantly improves survival rates for about 33 percent of patients with head and neck cancer, a study says.
The 5-year survival rates of patients with cancer containing the PIK3CA gene shot up from 25 percent to 78 percent among those using the drugs, according to a study published this month in the Journal of Experimental Medicine.
"Our results suggest that the use of NSAIDs could significantly improve outcomes for not only head and neck cancer patients, but also patients with other cancers that contained the PIK3CA mutation," Jennifer R. Grandis, a professor of head and neck surgery at University of California at San Francisco and study senior author, said in a press release.
The researchers suspect that NSAIDs probably prevented tumor growth by decreasing prostaglandin E2, an inflammatory molecule within the PIK3CA gene.
Head and neck disease diagnoses occur mostly in people over age 50. While 84 percent of the study's participants were smokers, other risk factors for head and neck disease include alcohol use and HPV infection.
According to the study, head and neck cancer account for about 4 percent of all cancers diagnosed annually.
NSAIDs are generally used as painkillers, which are normally available over-the-counter in the form of ibuprofen and aspirin. They reduce inflammation, fever and blood clots and are the most frequently prescribed medication for conditions like arthritis.
"NSAID use likely confers a statistically and clinically significant advantage in overall survival in PIK3CA-altered head and neck cancer through direct interaction between the PI3K and COX pathways," Grandis said. "Given the marked mortality of this disease, the researchers have designed a prospective, randomized clinical trial to address the initial study's limitations and assess the clinical significance of this therapeutic use."