Aspirin improves BTC patients’ survival

A new, observational study suggests that patients who receive aspirin following their biliary tract cancer (BTC) diagnosis have improved survival rates compared with patients who do not receive post-diagnosis aspirin.

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Biliary tract cancers (BTCs) are rare, however, mean patient survival following BTC diagnosis is approximately only 1 year. Aspirin has been highlighted as a potential cancer growth-slowing pharmacotherapy, due to its inhibition of both cyclooxygenase II and platelet aggregation. In a new observational study, an international team of researchers from the USA and UK have observed that post-diagnosis aspirin use is associated with improved BTC patient survival.

In the study, researchers employed de-identified patient data from the Clinical Practice Research Datalink database (CPRD), for the 1990–2017 period. Any patients with previous cancer history – except for nonmelanoma skin cancer – were excluded from the study.

Frequently asked questions:

Persistent, post-diagnosis aspirin use was defined by a recording of at least one aspirin prescription in the CPRD at, or following, patients' BTC diagnosis.

Researchers employed Cox proportional hazards regression to evaluate the association between patients’ time-dependent, post-diagnosis aspirin use and their overall survival.

BTC patients who took post-diagnosis aspirin had significantly reduced mortality risks at all time points compared with non-users of aspirin.

In the study, the authors concluded: “We observed a reduced risk of death for postdiagnosis aspirin users across all BTC types. The survival benefit of aspirin observed in our study is on par with the current standard of care.”


Jackson SS, Pfeiffer RM, Liu Z et al. Association between aspirin use and biliary tract cancer survival. JAMA Oncol. doi:10.1001/jamaoncol.2019.4328 (2019); (Epub ahead of print).

What is BTC?

BTC is a rare cancer form that affects the bile tracts, which connect the liver and small intestine. Both bile duct and gallbladder cancers are BTCs. 

How does aspirin work?

Aspirin is a selective, irreversible, competitive inhibitor of cyclooxygenase II. Aspirin has anti-inflammatory, analgesic and anticoagulation properties  due to its inhibition of prostaglandin synthesis by cyclooxygenase (II).

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Ilana Landau

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