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Cancer Prev Res (Phila). 2019 Nov;12(11):809-820. doi: 10.1158/1940-6207.CAPR-19-0036. Epub 2019 Aug 26.

Effect of Intermittent Versus Continuous Low-Dose Aspirin on Nasal Epithelium Gene Expression in Current Smokers: A Randomized, Double-Blinded Trial.

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University of Arizona Cancer Center, University of Arizona.
University of Arizona Cancer Center, University of Arizona.
Division of Cancer Prevention, NCI/NIH, Boston, Massachusetts.
Boston University School of Medicine, Boston, Massachusetts.


A chemopreventive effect of aspirin (ASA) on lung cancer risk is supported by epidemiologic and preclinical studies. We conducted a randomized, double-blinded study in current heavy smokers to compare modulating effects of intermittent versus continuous low-dose ASA on nasal epithelium gene expression and arachidonic acid (ARA) metabolism. Fifty-four participants were randomized to intermittent (ASA 81 mg daily for one week/placebo for one week) or continuous (ASA 81 mg daily) for 12 weeks. Low-dose ASA suppressed urinary prostaglandin E2 metabolite (PGEM; change of -4.55 ± 11.52 from baseline 15.44 ± 13.79 ng/mg creatinine for arms combined, P = 0.02), a surrogate of COX-mediated ARA metabolism, but had minimal effects on nasal gene expression of nasal or bronchial gene-expression signatures associated with smoking, lung cancer, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Suppression of urinary PGEM correlated with favorable changes in a smoking-associated gene signature (P < 0.01). Gene set enrichment analysis (GSEA) showed that ASA intervention led to 1,079 enriched gene sets from the Canonical Pathways within the Molecular Signatures Database. In conclusion, low-dose ASA had minimal effects on known carcinogenesis gene signatures in nasal epithelium of current smokers but results in wide-ranging genomic changes in the nasal epithelium, demonstrating utility of nasal brushings as a surrogate to measure gene-expression responses to chemoprevention. PGEM may serve as a marker for smoking-associated gene-expression changes and systemic inflammation. Future studies should focus on NSAIDs or agent combinations with broader inhibition of pro-inflammatory ARA metabolism to shift gene signatures in an anti-carcinogenic direction.

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