Researchers from Massachusetts Eye and Ear, Harvard Medical School, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Massachusetts General Hospital have demonstrated, for the first time, that aspirin intake correlates with halted growth of vestibular schwannomas (also known as acoustic neuromas), a sometimes lethal intracranial tumor that typically causes hearing loss and tinnitus.
“Currently, there are no FDA-approved drug therapies to treat these tumors, which are the most common tumors of the cerebellopontine angle and the fourth most common intracranial tumors,” explains Konstantina Stankovic, M.D., Ph.D., who led the study. “Current options for management of growing vestibular schwannomas include surgery (via craniotomy) or radiation therapy, both of which are associated with potentially serious complications.”
The Study: The findings, which are described in the February issue of the journal Otology and Neurotology, were based on a retrospective series of 689 people, 347 of whom were followed with multiple magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans (50%). The main outcome measures were patient use of aspirin and rate of vestibular schwannoma growth measured by changes in the largest tumor dimension as noted on serial MRIs. A significant inverse association was found among aspirin users and vestibular schwannoma growth (odds ratio: 0.50, 95 percent confidence interval: 0.29-0.85), which was not confounded by age or gender.
“Our results suggest a potential therapeutic role of aspirin in inhibiting vestibular schwannoma growth,” said Dr. Stankovic, who is an otologic surgeon and researcher at Mass. Eye and Ear, Assistant Professor of Otology and Laryngology, Harvard Medical School (HMS), and member of the faculty of Harvard’s program in Speech and Hearing Bioscience and Technology.
My Take: While retrospective analysis does not provide a high level of evidence (not high enough to recommend aspirin with confidence), the findings are nevertheless thought-provoking, and hopefully will lead to clinical trials investing the use of aspirin. I’m Dr. Michael Hunter.
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Reference: Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary. “Aspirin intake may stop growth of tumors that cause hearing loss.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 24 January 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/01/140124110705.htm>.
Journal Reference: Tjeerd Muurling, Konstantina M. Stankovic. Metabolomic and Network Analysis of Pharmacotherapies for Sensorineural Hearing Loss. Otology & Neurotology, 2014; 35 (1): 1 DOI: 10.1097/MAO.0000000000000254