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Celecoxib could offer lung cancer protection for past smokers

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Celecoxib and lung cancer

A drug that is commonly take for arthritis and other types of inflammatory pain - celecoxib, marketed also as Celebrex, might help protect former smokers from lung cancer.

The Ki-67 protein, also known as MKI67, is a marker that identifies how fast cancer cells are growing, which is used to predict the course of some types of cancer.

The drug is known as a COX-2 inhibitor, meaning it blocks the action of an enzyme responsible for inflammation. Celecoxib is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory agent. (NSAID).

Jenny Mao, M.D., a professor of medicine at the University of New Mexico and section chief of pulmonary and critical care medicine at the New Mexico VA Health System said:

By measuring biomarkers of lung health, including the Ki-67 labeling index, researchers at the University of New Mexico found celecoxib halted changes in lung cells that can lead to cancer.

"Taken together, these findings strongly suggest that celecoxib can be used as a chemopreventive agent in these high-risk groups."

The finding is important, though larger Phase III studies are needed to confirm that celecoxib would indeed halt lung cancer in individuals who were former smokers.

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In the current study, researchers randomly assigned 138 patients, placebo or 400mg of celecoxib twice a day. The participants were age 45 and older and smoke free for at least one year.

Bronchoscopy taken at baseline and six months after the trial showed a 38 percent reduction in the Ki-67 labeling index in the NSAID group, compared to just 3.8 percent in former smokers given placebo.

In the group given the anti-inflammatory drug, lung nodules that can lead to cancer also diminished.

J. Jack Lee, Ph.D., a professor of biostatistics at The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center and the statistical editor of Cancer Prevention Research explains the significance of the finding:

"The oncology community does not have a good treatment for lung cancer. Unless it is caught in the earliest stages, the five-year survival is only about 15 percent,” said Lee. “The best way is to intercept at the earliest stages and try to reverse the processes that can lead to cancer. These studies suggest celecoxib may be a tool to do that."

Though more studies are needed, the phage II human trial shows celecoxib, marketed at Celebrex and used for anti-inflammatory pain control could thwart lung cancer in former smokers. Recent studies also showed benefits of the NSAID for fighting liver and breast cancer.

Cancer Prevention Research: doi: 10.1158/1940-6207.CAPR-11-0078
"Lung Cancer Chemoprevention with Celecoxib in Former Smokers"
Jenny T. Mao et al

Image credit: Morguefile