Study shows aspirin may reduce breast cancer recurrence in overweight women

Eunice Ali

A study found non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as aspirin or ibuprofen, helped lower hormone-related breast cancer recurrence in overweight women by half.

The study — led by Linda deGraffenried, associate professor of nutritional sciences, and her research team — has been underway for two years and was published in the journal Cancer Research in August. 

“We are really excited by the results of this study,” deGraffenried said. “This is definitely a collaborative effort.” 

According to deGraffenried, she was first interested in understanding why certain patients don’t do well on hormone therapy. During her investigation, she found that obese breast cancer patients tended to have a higher risk of death.

Laura Bowers, who worked on this project for her dissertation, initiated the study to understand the mechanism by which obesity is making cancers more aggressive.

“This is a massive accomplishment,” Bowers said. “It’ll be a meaningful contribution.”

Bowers said she found a correlation between low dosages of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs daily and lower recurrence rates among patients. She also found that more inflammation in the cells led to more growth and migration of cancer cells.

When looking at the serum – the liquid part of the blood – of breast cancer patients, Bowers saw the obese women had more inflammation in their cells. These women, mostly postmenopausal, were then given low dosages of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs daily and showed a 52 percent decline in recurrence and a delay of 28 months in recurrence time, according to Bowers.

In this study, deGraffenried also worked with other researchers in both Austin and San Antonio. Bowers led the cell culture in the laboratory. Ilane Máximo conducted the retrospective analysis of the breast cancer patients under the supervision of Andrew Brenner, medical oncologist and assistant professor at UT Health Science Center-San Antonio, and Murali Beeram, medical oncologist and researcher at The START Center for Cancer Care.

DeGraffenried said she requested funding to conduct another study next summer to determine whether adding aspirin to normal drug prescriptions would improve a patient’s treatment outcome. She also plans to collaborate with the future Dell Medical School.

A spokeswoman for the American Association for Cancer Research declined requests for comment.