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Friday, 4 September, 1998, 10:38 GMT 11:38 UK
Painkiller could treat lung cancer
Surgery is the only cure for lung cancer
The widely available painkiller ibuprofen could boost the life expectancy and quality of life of lung cancer patients, experts have claimed.

The Cancer Research Campaign has launched a major new trial to test the impact of the anti-inflammatory drug on the most common form of the disease, Non Small Cell Lung Cancer (NSCLC).

Doctors believe ibuprofen may be able to stop lung cancer patients from suffering sudden weight loss caused by an inflammatory reaction to the cancer tumour.

Often it is the problems associated with weight loss that can kill a patient, rather than the cancerous tumour itself.

Researchers hope that if the weight loss can be controlled lung cancer patients can enjoy a significantly improved quality of life. However, ibuprofen is not a cure for the disease.

Dr Donald McMillan, of Glasgow Royal Infirmary, will lead the three-year trial to test the drug on 260 lung cancer patients from Scottish hospitals.

Intense reaction

Ibuprofen may combat lung cancer
Dr McMillan said: "Usually the inflammation caused by the tumour is not resolved and the tumour can be thought of as a wound which does not heal - the body keeps reacting, in some patients with an intensity comparable to having a gall bladder taken out every week.

"Often it is not the tumour itself that kills the patient, but related health problems. And, although no-one knows why these other health problems kick in, we do know that progressive weight loss is associated with poor prognosis in cancer patients."

Dr John Toy, director of clinical programmes for the Cancer Research Campaign, said: "Lung cancer is a particularly insidious form of cancer in that by the time symptoms are recognised it can often be too late for surgery.

"Finding new ways to improve the quality of life these patients enjoy, while their disease is managed, is of great importance."

Greatest cause of death

NSCLC is the greatest cause of cancer-related deaths worldwide and accounts for about 70% of lung cancers.

The only cure is surgery at an early stage of the disease. However, most patients are diagnosed too late for surgery to be effective.

Ibuprofen, used in combination with a steroid drug megestrol acetate, has already been shown to reduce weight loss and improve appetite in patients with gastrointestinal cancer.

The new trial will test the impact of ibuprofen alone, and of ibuprofen in combination with megestrol acetate.

Megestrol has been successfully used in the treatment of breast cancer.

See also:

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