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Celecoxib, a cyclooxygenase-2 inhibitor, may help prevent lung cancer in former smokers, according to new research published in Cancer Prevention Research.1

Researchers found that the drug lowered key biomarkers in lung cancer development among former smokers, including the Ki-67 labeling index, a marker of cellular proliferation or growth. A previous report published in the same journal in February 2010 demonstrated a similar effect on the Ki-67 labeling index among both former and current smokers.

The 2 studies suggest that celecoxib could be a chemopreventive agent in these 2 high-risk groups, says Jenny Mao, MD, lead author of the 2011 article and professor of medicine at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque. Nevertheless, both trials were phase 2 trials, and results must be confirmed in a large phase 3 study, she adds.

Dr. Mao and colleagues enrolled 137 former smokers aged 45 years and older and randomly assigned them to either 400 mg of celecoxib twice daily or a placebo. They conducted bronchoscopies at baseline and at 6 months to detect changes in the Ki-67 labeling index. Treatment with celecoxib reduced the biomarker by 34%, whereas the placebo groups experienced a 3.8% increase. Decreases in the Ki-67 labeling index also were linked to a reduction in lung nodules, which are considered a possible precursor to cancer.

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