More data suggest benefit of aspirin after radiation for prostate cancer

According to a media release issued by Fox Chase Cancer Center yesterday, researchers at this institution have been able to demonstrate that “aspirin reduces the risk of cancer recurrence in some prostate cancer patients.” The data were presented at a meeting of the American Radium Society on Sunday.

The “New” Prostate Cancer InfoLink has not been able to obtain details of the actual presentation beyond what appears in the media release. However, according to Mark Buyyounouski, a radiation oncologist at Fox Chase Cancer Center and the leader of the research team, the report is based on a retrospective examination of data from > 2,100 prostate cancer patients  treated with radiotherapy for localized prostate cancer at Fox Chase between 1989 and 2006.

The core data from the study are reported as follows:

  • Patients were followed for an average of 10 years after their radiation therapy.
  • Of 761 men taking aspirin at or after the time of radiotherapy, 31 percent had biochemical recurrence (based on their PSA levels).
  • Of the 1,380 men who did not take aspirin at or after the time of radiotherapy, 39 percent had biochemical recurrence.
  • This difference is highly statistically significant (p = 0.0005).
  • There was a small (2 percent) improvement in 10-year prostate cancer-specific survival associated with aspirin use (p = 0.07).

Dr. Buyyounouski is quoted in the media release as saying, “We know that prostate cancer has a long natural history and 15 years or more may be necessary to detect significant difference in survival. Longer follow-up is needed, but these results warrant further study.”

Over the years, a number of retrospective analyses like this have suggested that aspirin and other blood-thinning agents may reduce the risk for biochemical recurrence of prostate cancer, the risk of metastasis, and the risk of prostate cancer-specific mortality. The Fox Chase team claim that theirs is the largest such study to demonstrate this effect to date. However, The “New” Prostate Cancer InfoLink would comment that this is still a retrospective analysis and these data need to be assessed with caution. It may well be to the benefit of men who are already on aspirin (or some other form of blood thinning agent) for another clinical condition, but whether patients should actively be placed on aspirin or a similar agent as a method to decrease risk of biochemical progression after first-line treatment for prostate cancer is a much harder question to answer. Long-term aspirin therapy can be associated with significant side effects.

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