Regular use of aspirin or ibuprofen could help patients with head and neck cancer.

A new international study has found that regular use of these drugs lowered the levels of inflammatory molecules found in patients with head and neck cancers, helping to improve survival and recovery.

Aspirin or other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) appear to be effective in patients with mutations in a gene called PIK3CA.

The researchers suggest this is because NSAIDs lower the levels of an inflammatory molecule called prostaglandin E2.

“The present study is the first to demonstrate that regular NSAID usage confers a significant clinical advantage in patients with PIK3CA-altered head and neck squamous cell carcinoma,” says study leader Professor Jennifer Grandis from the University of California.

“Inconsistencies in the type, timing, and dosages of NSAIDs taken by patients in this study limit our ability to make specific therapeutic recommendations. But the magnitude of the apparent advantage, especially given the marked morbidity and mortality of this disease, warrants further study in a prospective, randomised clinical trial.”

The study is accessible here.