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Some Colon Cancer Patients May Benefit From Aspirin

Experts divided over whether drug should be added to treatment

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Survival rates were notably higher among aspirin-taking patients whose tumor cells gave off what's called HLA class I antigen -- a type of substance that alerts the immune system to defend the body. About two-thirds of 963 patients whose tumors were analyzed fell into this category.

Aspirin had no apparent effect on the other patients who took it, the researchers said.

It's unclear why aspirin might help some colon cancer patients but not others. Reimers said researchers believe aspirin may affect a process involving tumor cells and the components of blood known as platelets.

What's next? Neugut said researchers have launched studies to get a better understanding of aspirin's perceived effect on colon cancer. But the results won't be available for at least 10 years, he noted.

"There is a good chance that aspirin may also prove effective for other cancers in the future," Neugut said, "but there is much less data for any cancer other than colon."

Patients are not routinely tested for HLA class I antigens, but Reimers said it wouldn't be expensive to do so.

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