Blood thinners might prolong life for prostate cancer patients

February 22, 2013 | by Hiu Chung So

Being on a blood-thinning medication is not unusual. In the U.S., more than 2 million people take the drugs. But although blood-thinners are well-known for their ability to prevent dangerous blood clots that can lead to a heart attack or stroke, new research suggests they may also be useful against prostate cancer.

New study may suggest a link between blood thinning medication and prostate cancer survival, but experts advise against reaching for the aspirin bottle (Credit: Dynamic Graphics / Thinkstock) A new study suggests a link between blood-thinning medication and prostate cancer survival, but experts advise against automatically reaching for the aspirin bottle. (Credit: Dynamic Graphics / Thinkstock)

In a study involving 247 men with metastatic prostate cancer, researchers found that men who took blood-thinning medication in conjunction with chemotherapy survived for an average of almost 21 months, compared to a survival of approximately 17 months for those men who didn’t.The findings, presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology’s Genitourinary Cancers Symposium on Feb. 14 to 16, were especially surprising to the researchers, who thought that the underlying conditions indicating blood-thinner use (deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism) might have reduced survival time instead.

Although there are other studies linking blood thinners — including aspirin — to improved survival, researchers say prostate cancer patients shouldn’t start taking them just yet.

Cy Stein, M.D., Ph.D., Arthur and Rosalie Kaplan Chair and Professor of the Department of Medical Oncology and Therapeutics Research at City of Hope, commented to HealthDay that “maybe men who develop blood clots have something else that affects how they respond to chemotherapy. We just don’t know.”

And blood thinners create their own dangers as well, such as increased risks of bleeds that won’t clot and of internal bleeding from falls or bumps on the head.

Even the study’s authors acknowledged that further studies and supporting evidence are needed before considering clinical trials to test blood thinners’ anti-cancer abilities.

But if the evidence does pan out, it could provide a new line of treatment for those diagnosed with prostate cancer, which will kill nearly 30,000 men this year, according to the American Cancer Society.

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