NSAIDs like ibuprofen slow the spread of breast cancers

July 07, 2017

It's a vicious chain, but one with a weak link: many drugs exist that inhibit COX-2. These include the non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, or celecoxib, which is a more targeted COX-2 inhibitor used in other inflammatory diseases like arthritis. "Inhibition of COX-2 slows the formation of fibrillar collagen and thus both tumor growth and the tumor's travel into the lung," write Schedin and collaborators. Sure enough, Schedin and the research team found that in postpartum mice, ibuprofen and celecoxib treatment reduced mammary tumor size, collagen architecture, COX-2 expression, and breast tumor cell spreading into the lung.

However, recommending ibuprofen for women undergoing breast involution is premature. Schedin and Borges point out that early studies of vitamin A in lung cancer and vitamin E in prostate cancer at first found the vitamins to be cancer-fighting but eventually showed them to be cancer-promoting. "It becomes a numbers game," says Borges, "with the benefit of the drug weighed against its dangers. It seems as if the safety of these drugs is self-evident, but it's only because we don't fully understand the effects of NSAIDs during this unique period of a woman's life, when her body is undergoing dramatic changes. So it becomes very important to study the effects of NSAID treatment in this particular group of women before we can make any prevention recommendations."

This is about the fifth step down an extremely promising path toward identifying a simple, inexpensive, effective treatment of postpartum breast cancers. But there are many steps still to go.

Source: University of Colorado Denver