Celecoxib (better known as Celebrex) has potential to be a preventative treatment of lung cancer. Research done at the University of New Mexico among ex-smokers shows significant results, though the scientists involved are remaining cautiously optimistic pending further tests.
Lung cancer is among the most dangerous forms of cancer. Among cancers, it’s the leading cause of death. The five-year survival rate is around 15 percent for full-blown cases. Though quitting smoking does reduce the risk of lung cancer, ex-smokers are still at higher risk than people who never smoked in the first place. Since few effective treatments exist for the condition, any new options are exciting. It’s estimated that in United States alone, there are 45 million smokers and 45 million ex-smokers.
Celecoxib is an an NSAID (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug) that is commonly prescribed for conditions resulting in pain or inflammation. It’s a member of a new generation of anti-inflammatory drug called coxibs, which is short for COX-2 inhibitors. Coxibs were developed to deliver all the benefits of NSAIDs without the more severe side effects of the drugs. It has been a mixed success. Since their creation, several coxibs have been taken off the market for safety reasons.
In this experiment, 137 participants were examined. Everyone participating was an ex-smoker who had not smoked for the last year and smoked a pack a day for at least 30 years. They were randomly given either a daily 400 mg dose of celecoxib or an inert placebo. The trials tested for a particular chemical marker that often accompanies lung cancer, Ki-67.
The results were very encouraging. Early results do show that celecoxib does seem to reduce the amount of Ki-67. In fact, the Ki-67 measurements used showed a 34% improvement using celcoxib (versus 3.8 percent for the placebo).
While this trial is looking promising, the lead researcher, Dr. Jenny Mao, remains cautious in her optimism. She realizes that a full phase III trial is necessary to make sure celecoxib helps prevent lung cancer.
Another major concern is the array of side effects common to celecoxib and other NSAIDs. Common adverse reactions include digestive problems, headache, and cardiovascular disease. While coxibs like celecoxib were developed to avoid the gastrointestinal effects, they had limited success. Celecoxib only avoids the gastrointestinal problems in the short term. Long-term, celecoxib has similar effects on the stomach and intestines as other NSAIDs.
Celecoxib is also linked to cardiovascular disease such as high blood pressure, heart attack, and stroke. These potentially dangerous side effects would have to be managed and considered against the risk of developing lung cancer. These issues are all of interest to researchers in the next phase of research.
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