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Clin Cancer Res. 2014 Mar 1;20(5):1087-94. doi: 10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-13-2563. Epub 2013 Dec 10.

Aspirin and colorectal cancer: back to the future.

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Authors' Affiliations: Departments of Medicine and Oncology, and Cancer Center, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota.


Abundant epidemiologic evidence indicates that regular and long-term use of aspirin is associated with a significant reduction in the incidence of colorectal cancer. The long duration of aspirin needed to prevent colorectal cancer is believed to be due to inhibition of precursor lesions known as adenomas, the recurrence of which is inhibited by aspirin in randomized trials. Aspirin intake has also been associated with a statistically significant improvement in patient survival after curative resection of colorectal cancer in large observational studies. In these cohorts, the survival benefit of aspirin was shown to depend upon the level of COX-2 expression in the primary colorectal cancer. More recent analysis of patient tumors from these observational cohorts suggests that the benefit of aspirin may be limited to specific molecular subtypes. Aspirin intake following colorectal cancer resection was associated with a significant improvement of survival in patients whose tumors carried mutant, but not wild-type, copies of the phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3KCA) gene, especially tumors that overexpressed COX-2. A mechanistic explanation is suggested by the finding that inhibition of COX-mediated prostaglandin E2 synthesis by aspirin attenuates PI3K signaling activity that is known to regulate cancer cell proliferation and survival. Aspirin has also been shown to reduce the incidence of colorectal cancers bearing wild-type, but not mutant alleles of the BRAF(V600E) oncogene. Although provocative, the potential utility of these molecular markers for predicting aspirin efficacy awaits prospective evaluation in clinical trials. If validated, these findings may support a personalized approach to using aspirin for the therapy of colorectal cancer.

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