Numerous epidemiologic studies have reported that the long-term use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID) is associated with a significant decrease in cancer incidence and delayed progression of malignant disease. The use of NSAIDs has also been linked with reduced risk from cancer-related mortality and distant metastasis. Certain prescription-strength NSAIDs, such as sulindac, have been shown to cause regression of precancerous lesions. Unfortunately, the extended use of NSAIDs for chemoprevention results in potentially fatal side effects related to their COX-inhibitory activity and suppression of prostaglandin synthesis. Although the basis for the tumor growth–inhibitory activity of NSAIDs likely involves multiple effects on tumor cells and their microenvironment, numerous investigators have concluded that the underlying mechanism is not completely explained by COX inhibition. It may therefore be possible to develop safer and more efficacious drugs by targeting such COX-independent mechanisms. NSAID derivatives or metabolites that lack COX-inhibitory activity, but retain or have improved anticancer activity, support this possibility. Experimental studies suggest that apoptosis induction and suppression of β-catenin–dependent transcription are important aspects of their antineoplastic activity. Studies show that the latter involves phosphodiesterase inhibition and the elevation of intracellular cyclic GMP levels. Here, we review the evidence for COX-independent mechanisms and discuss progress toward identifying alternative targets and developing NSAID derivatives that lack COX-inhibitory activity but have improved antineoplastic properties. Clin Cancer Res; 20(5); 1–10. ©2013 AACR.
- Received September 17, 2013.
- Revision received November 15, 2013.
- Accepted November 21, 2013.
- ©2013 American Association for Cancer Research.