Simple aspirin could play important role in fighting breast cancer

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A new study hopes to find that aspirin could help boost survival among breast cancer patients.

Doctors at the Christie NHS Foundation Trust hospital in Manchester, England, along with nonprofit research firm Breast Cancer Now, have based the new trial on evidence that the low-cost painkiller may facilitate the body’s immune response to tumors. That’s according to 118 previous studies related to 18 different cancers, which overall showed a 20% increase in survival among patients who were also taking aspirin during cancer treatment.

Immunotherapy helps the body’s immune system better use its own resources to attack cancer cells, usually in conjunction with chemotherapy, radiation or surgery. Aspirin, findings suggest, may make tumors more sensitive in conjunction with other treatments.

The results could mean that those with stage IV triple-negative breast cancer — a particularly difficult cancer to treat — have greater hope of a longer life.

Dr. Anne Armstrong, a consulting oncologist for Christie NHS Foundation Trust, told the Daily Mail, “Trialling the use of a drug like aspirin is exciting because it is so widely available and inexpensive to produce.

“We hope our trial will show that, when combined with immunotherapy, aspirin can enhance its effects and may ultimately provide a safe new way to treat breast cancer,” she added.

During the study, some patients who receive the immunotherapy drug avelumab will also take aspirin, prior to more invasive treatments, such as surgery or chemo. (A control group will not receive aspirin with their cancer drug regimen.)

Triple-negative breast cancer occurs in only 10% to 15% of all breast cancer patients, according to the American Cancer Society — affecting potentially tens of thousands of women (and even more so in black women).

The name refers to breast cancer patients who lack three hormonal receptors — estrogen (ER), progesterone (PR) and human epidermal growth factor 2 (HER2) — which are typically used to design targeted drug treatments that attack tumors in their weak spot.

Without these tailored therapies, patients of the rare triple-negative disease have few prospects to stop cancer’s spread.

“Aspirin could hold the key to increasing the effectiveness of immunotherapy when used at the same time,” said Armstrong.

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