Aspirin and Head and Neck Cancer

Painkillers Increase Survival Chances of Head and Neck Patients

Several UK papers have reported research has recently been published that demonstrated a significant survival benefit for head and neck cancer patients who take common painkillers such as aspirin or ibuprofen (NSAIDs). The Daily Express reported researchers from UC San Francisco have found 5 year survival is increased from 25% to 78% in some patients who take NSAIDs regularly for at least 6 months. Aspirin was the painkiller most commonly taken by patients in the study.

However this benefit is not seen in all head and neck patients but only those with a mutation of a particular gene (PIK3CA) saw the increase in survival prospects. Around one quarter of head and neck patients have this altered gene.

This news may not be as good as it first appears. There are many people who cannot take NSAIDs. The drugs can have some unfortunate side-effects. Aspirin can cause bleeding and others significantly increase risks of stroke and heart attack and raise blood pressure with prolonged use. The proportion of patients who are tested for the gene mutation is uncertain so it may be that very few patients would be aware if taking the painkillers would benefit them.

The research paper is available HERE

The Express article is  HERE