Celebrex Might Thwart Inherited Skin Cancers

People with an inherited skin disorder could reduce their risk of developing skin cancer by taking the painkiller celecoxib (Celebrex), a preliminary study suggests.

The research has only reached the second of three phases, however, and the drug is not yet officially approved for this use.

The condition, known as Gorlin syndrome, causes people to develop hundreds or even thousands of cancerous lesions known as basal cell carcinomas.

According to one of the researchers, the goal is to find a way to prevent cancer in everyone. "The underlying idea is if we can find something in these high-risk patients that could be translatable to the 'normal' population, then we could ultimately use that form of chemoprevention to reduce the numbers of skin cancer in all people," Dr. Ervin H. Epstein Jr., senior scientist at the Children's Hospital of Oakland Research Institute in California, said in a news release from the American Association for Cancer Research.

The researchers found that patients with basal cell carcinoma who took 200 milligrams of oral celecoxib two times a day had significantly fewer lesions after two years compared with patients who were given a placebo.

But the painkiller has been linked to cardiovascular side effects, Epstein said, and more research is needed.