A research study under way at Northwestern Memorial Hospital is trying to find out if the popular anti-inflammatory drug Celebrex might do more than ease arthritis pain. Researchers at Northwestern Memorial are enrolling patients with early stage head and neck cancers or non-small cell lung cancers in a research study to see if Celebrex reduces the return of old tumors or the chance of getting a new cancer when taken after surgery or radiation treatments.
The double-blind, randomized study will enroll about 120 patients at Northwestern Memorial, the primary teaching hospital of Northwestern Universitys Feinberg School of Medicine. Celebrex belongs to a class of drugs called COX-2 inhibitors that block the production of an enzyme called cyclooxygenese–2 or simply COX-2. COX-2 triggers pain and inflammation in arthritis sufferers and may also fuel the growth of cancer.
"COX-2 inhibitors have emerged in recent years as a promising anticancer therapy. Many cancers have high levels of COX-2," explains Athanassios Argiris, M.D., an oncologist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. Dr. Argiris, who coordinates the clinical research in lung as well as head and neck cancer at the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center, is the principal investigator of the research study, which is also expected to open in other major institutions in the U.S. in the coming months. COX-2 may promote the growth of new blood vessels that nourish the cancer tumors. "Taking Celebrex may starve the tumor of nutrients in a process called anti-angiogenesis," he says. "It also appears to promote self-destruction of cancer cells."
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