Aspirin may lengthen life for colorectal cancer patients with certain gene mutation

Colorectal cancer patients with a particular gene mutation may gain several years of life if they take aspirin, according to Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) research. Roughly 20 percent of those with colorectal cancer have the mutation, according to the study. For those without the mutation, aspirin appears to have no effect.

Examining data from more than 900 patients with colorectal cancer, researchers found that, among those who had a mutation in the PIK3CA gene, there was a sharp jump in survival: Five years after diagnosis, 97% of those taking aspirin were still alive, compared with 74% of those not using aspirin.

“Aspirin appears to work to increase survival of colorectal cancer patients if the tumor has PIK3CA mutation, but does not work if the tumor does not have PIK3CA mutation,” senior author Shuji Ogino, associate professor in the Department of Epidemiology at HSPH, said in an October 24, 2012 HealthDay article. He added, “Doctors may be able to make a decision to treat or not to treat with aspirin, based on a PIK3CA test result.”

The study was published in the October 25, 2012 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

Read the HealthDay article

Read the Harvard Gazette article