New research suggests NSAIDs could prevent a dangerous side effect of breast cancer surgery

Surgery in breast cancer patients may trigger a negative response in the body that allows dormant cancer cells to thrive. However, according to a new study published in Science Translational Medicine, new research suggests taking a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) around the time of surgery could help stop such growth in its tracks.

“This represents the first causative evidence of surgery having this kind of systemic response,” authors Jordan Krall, Whitehead Institute of Biomedical Research in Cambridge, Massachusetts, said in a statement on MIT News. “Surgery is essential for treating a lot of tumors, especially breast cancer. But there are some side effects of surgery, just as there are side effects to any treatment. We’re starting to understand what appears to be one of those potential side effects, and this could lead to supportive treatment alongside of surgery that could mitigate some of those effects.”

Krall and colleagues studied this relationship between surgery and metastatic relapse by observing cancer cells in mice. The authors performed stimulated surgeries in the mice and noticed it caused tumor incidence and tumor size to “dramatically increase” in dormant cancer cells. When the mice were given a NSAID at the time of surgery or right after the surgery, it led to smaller tumors that sometimes would completely heal altogether. The NSAID did not have a negative reaction on the surgical wound’s ability to heal.

Robert A. Weinberg, PhD, a founding member of the Whitehead Institute of Biomedical Research and another author of the study, noted in the MIT News statement that this was still the very early stages of this research. “This is an important first step in exploring the potential importance of this mechanism in oncology,” he said.