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Colorectal Cancer Health Center

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Drug Combo Stops Recurrent Colon Polyps

Researchers Say DFMO Plus Sulindac Less Toxic Than Chemotherapy

Use Foreseen in People at High Risk of Colon Cancer

Meyskens says that DFMO, which is short for difluoromethylornithine, was developed as a cancer medication, but is now used to treat African sleeping sickness. It's also used to remove unwanted hair. Sulindac, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), is also sold as Clinoril.

Meyskens says that further study is needed to confirm both the safety and effectiveness of the combo treatment. But he thinks it will eventually be used to help prevent colon cancer in "people at highest risk, such as people with advanced adenoma on colonoscopy."

It may also prove useful for "people with early colon cancer who have been cured. Without treatment, about one-third will go on to have another colon cancer," he says.

Celebrex Also Slashes Polyp Risks

A second study presented at the meeting showed that the popular painkiller Celebrex also slashes the risk of developing new precancerous colon growths -- even after people stop taking the drug.

But that research also showed that people taking Celebrex had more heart attacks, stroke, and other cardiovascular problems, particularly if they already had heart disease.

The researchers followed people who were involved in a study that was terminated early after Celebrex was linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular problems.

Participants took either 200 milligrams or 400 milligrams of Celebrex, or a placebo, twice a day, for three years. About 600 of them had a follow-up colonoscopy an average of one-and-one-half years after stopping the drug.

"At three years, there was about a 57% reduction in the presence of new advanced lesions in patients on the lower dose of Celebrex," says Monica Bertagnolli, MD, associate professor of surgery at the Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.

By an average of one-and-one-half years after discontinuing treatment, there was still a 41% reduction in advanced lesions among people on the lower dose of Celebrex, she tells WebMD

The higher dose was no more effective than the lower dose, Bertagnolli says.

Heart Safety of Celebrex Is a Concern

But 8.5% of patients on Celebrex had a heart attack, stroke, or other cardiovascular problem over the five-year period, Bertagnolli says.

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