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Popular Painkiller May Slow Prostate Cancer: Cox-2 Inhibitors
-- Such as Celebrex -- May Delay, Prevent Cancer Progression
Drugs known as Cox-2 inhibitors, including Celebrex, have been shown to have anti-tumor effects on a variety of different cancer tissues, including colon, breast, lung, and prostate cancers, explains researcher J. Eric Derksen, MD, a urologist with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Cox-2 inhibitors (commonly used to treat arthritis) relieve pain, inflammation, and swelling by blocking the body's production of an enzyme called Cox-2. These drugs, which also include Bextra and Vioxx, are less irritating on the stomach lining than earlier versions of anti-inflammatory drugs, like ibuprofen.
Recent research involving men treated for prostate cancer has shown especially promising results, says Derksen, who presented his findings at the American Society of Clinical Oncology's annual meeting.
In his study, Derksen enrolled 24 men who had rising PSA (prostate-specific antigen) levels, a marker for prostate cancer growth, despite treatment with radiation therapy or prostate removal surgery. The men took either 400 milligrams or 800 milligrams of Celebrex for one year. Their PSAs were checked at several points during that year.
Celebrex had a positive effect on nearly all (92%) of the men after three months, reports Derksen. Overall, PSA declined in eight of the men and remained the same in three. The rise in PSA levels slowed in 11 men, indicating that their prostate cancer was growing more slowly. The two remaining men had no improvement at three months but the rise in their PSA levels slowed by one year.
It's a hopeful finding: The other option involves shutting down production of male sex hormones -- usually with medication -- which has not proven successful in slowing prostate cancer or improving a man's chances of survival. Also men in the early stages of prostate cancer recurrence, such as the men in this study with rising PSA levels, usually have no symptoms. Therefore, shutting down production of male sex hormones could unnecessarily expose them to side effects, say the researchers.
"These results show that Cox-2 inhibitors may help delay or prevent [prostate cancer] progression in these patients," he writes.
Sources: American Society of Clinical Oncology 2004 annual meeting, New Orleans, June 5-8, 2004. News release, University of North Carolina School of Medicine. By Jeanie Lerche Davis