Magazine article Science News

Anti-Inflammatories' Cancer Effects Vary by Brand and Tissue Type

Magazine article Science News

Anti-Inflammatories' Cancer Effects Vary by Brand and Tissue Type

Article excerpt

Two new studies on medications being investigated as cancer treatments indicate that certain of these drugs have secondary effects that could enhance or undermine their antitumor activity. These compounds, which inhibit the inflammatory enzyme cyclooxygenase-2, or COX-2, are currently used to treat pain and arthritis. Researchers have now found that one such drug surprisingly accelerates the growth of some pancreatic tumors. Another COX-2 inhibitor, however, demonstrates unexpectedly strong activity against prostate cancer. These newly recognized effects seem to result from activities beyond the drugs' inhibition of COX-2.

Effects unique to specific drugs in this class could become "a point of distinction," enabling doctors to choose the optimal drug for a given situation, says Andrew Dannenberg of Cornell University's Weill Medical College in New York City.

When cell types that typically produce little or no COX-2 become cancerous, they often churn out excessive amounts of the enzyme, which stimulate the formation of blood vessels that feed a growing tumor. Past studies indicated that aspirin and related anti-inflammatory drugs, which broadly inhibit cyclooxygenase enzymes, and drugs such as celecoxib (Celebrex) and rofecoxib (Vioxx), which selectively block COX-2 production, can prevent or stop certain cancers from growing.

Other research, however, suggested that most prostate cancers and between 10 and 40 percent of pancreatic tumors don't produce COX-2 and so are called COX-2 negative.

To test the COX-2 inhibitor called nimesulide against cancerous pancreatic cells, Guido Eibl of the University of California, Los Angeles School of Medicine and his colleagues applied the drug to cells from COX-2-positive and COX-2-negative pancreatic tumors.

In both lab dishes and mice, the drug impeded production of a compound required for growth of COX-2-positive cancer cells but increased production of that factor in COX-2-negative ones, Eibl reported on March 30 at a meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research in Orlando, Fla. …

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