Can NSAIDs Help Prevent Recurrence in Overweight Breast Cancer Patients?

August 19, 2014
Christina Izzo

Researchers at The University of Texas at Austin have found that postmenopausal overweight or obese breast cancer patients receiving hormone therapy as part of their treatment who use nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) have significantly lower breast cancer recurrence rates and a sizable delay in time to cancer recurrence.

Linda deGraffenried, PhD

Researchers at The University of Texas at Austin have found that postmenopausal overweight or obese breast cancer patients receiving hormone therapy as part of their treatment who use nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) have significantly lower breast cancer recurrence rates and a sizable delay in time to cancer recurrence.

The findings of the analysis and study, published in the August 14 edition of Cancer Research, determined that NSAID use reduces the recurrence rate of the most common form of breast cancer, ERα positive, by 50% and extends patients’ disease-free period by more than 2 years.

These findings suggest a new possibility for reducing the incidence of breast cancer recurrence among overweight and obese postmenopausal women, who have a comparatively higher risk of recurrence.

“Overweight or obese women diagnosed with breast cancer are facing a worse prognosis than normal-weight women,” study designer Linda deGraffenried, PhD, associate professor in the Department of Nutritional Sciences at UT Austin, said in a statement.

“We believe that obese women are facing a different disease. There are changes at the molecular level. We seek to modulate the disease-promoting effects of obesity.”

The investigators first examined medical records of 440 breast cancer patients, comparing the prognoses of those who took NSAIDs with those who did not.

The researchers then designed a second study to examine how breast cancer cells behave in the body. By bathing ERα positive breast cancer cells in blood serum from obese women, they hoped to mimic the environment that encourages tumors to grow, proliferate, and metastasize.

Although the mechanism causing breast cancer in obese women to be more aggressive and less responsive to treatment is not completely understood, the researchers believe that inflammation plays a pivotal role. Their findings also suggest inflammation negatively affects the effectiveness of aromatase inhibitors, a class of cancer drugs commonly prescribed to prevent cancer recurrence.

“Clinicians are finding that the five-year recurrence rate for postmenopausal women is much higher on aromatase inhibitors when the patient is obese,” says deGraffenried. “We would like to identify which women are most likely to benefit from interventions like adding NSAIDs to treatment regimens.”

To do this, the research team is planning a larger prospective study to identify disease biomarkers and monitor patient response to the addition of NSAIDs to breast cancer treatment.