The study, focused on celecoxib (Pfizer’s Celebrex), showed that the drug slows the growth rate of a specific kind of cancer in animal models and suggests the medication could have the same effect on other types of tumours.
The drug targets an enzyme called “cyclooxygenase-2” (COX-2), which is linked to pain and inflammation.
“Our study shows that COX2 inhibitors do have an effect on the tumor cells,” said the study’s first author William Guerrant from the Florida campus of The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) in the US.
“They also have an impact on inflammatory responses that play a role in tumour growth,” Guerrant noted.
The researchers conducted animal studies tracking the effects of celecoxib on the growth of cancer cells from a tumour type known as neurofibromatosis type II (NF2).
In humans, NF2 is a relatively rare inherited form of cancer caused by mutations in the anti-tumour gene NF2, which leads to benign tumours of the auditory nerve.
Animals received a daily dose of the drug, and tumour growth was followed by imaging.
Analysis of the results showed a significantly slower tumour growth rate in celecoxib-treated models than in controls.
“It’s possible that in other cancers these effects might actually be stronger because of the drug’s impact on inflammation,” Guerrant noted.