Cancer researchers in Italy have discovered a set of possible mechanisms by which nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may be used to prevent and treat cancer, in particular, malignant mesothelioma. The researchers studied an NSAID called Piroxicam, which has been shown to have significant anti-tumor effects in combination with cisplatin. Researchers have known that NSAIDs might be of use in fighting cancer, but have not had a good understanding of the mechanisms by which the drugs might be working, making testing and creating cancer-specific NSAIDs somewhat difficult. In addition, the frequency of mesothelioma is low enough that there have not been many cell-line studies done, simply because mesothelioma cell lines are not easily acquired. The Italian researchers in this study found two mesothelioma cell lines to perform their work upon, and investigated the use of Piroxicam alone, as well as in combination with cisplatin, and the effect of the drugs on mesothelioma proliferation and cell growth.
The researchers found that in both cell lines, Piroxicam and cisplatin applied individually, had significant effects on cell growth rates, inhibiting and slowing the growth of cancerous cells. In addition, both substances altered the cell growth cycle of mesothelioma cells. In combination, the effects were even stronger. Particularly, administering the two drugs together had an effect on apoptosis (cell death). The work is particularly exciting because, unlike treatments such as radiation therapy or chemotherapy, nonsteroidal agents like Piroxicam have relatively modest side effects. NSAIDs are commonly used as painkillers and as anti-inflammatory drugs, are widely available, and are generally not extremely expensive to produce. Piroxicam, in particular, is well tolerated by most patients and is easily administered, both alone and as an addition to chemotherapeutic agents. It is possible that the addition of Piroxicam or other NSAIDs might make chemotherapy far more effective for mesothelioma patients; at present, while chemotherapy is still often prescribed for early-diagnosis mesothelioma patients following surgical removal of tumors, studies have indicated that there is little or no benefit from the treatment. Piroxicam or other NSAIDs could change that, and give some measure of hope to what is currently a disease with a nearly universally grim prognosis.