Anticoagulant Warfarin May Lower Cancer Risk

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Gry Haaland, MD

James Lorens PhD, Professor
The Department of Biomedicine
University of Bergen

 MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: Antitumor activity of the common blood thinner warfarin has been reported in several experimental cancer model systems. We therefore considered whether warfarin is cancer protective.

Using the comprehensive national health registries in Norway, we examined cancer incidence among a large number of people taking warfarin (92,942) and compared to those not taking warfarin (more than 1.1 million).

MedicalResearch.com: What are the main findings?

Response: The main finding in this study is that warfarin, used by millions of adults worldwide, may lower cancer risk.

Warfarin use was associated with lower risk of any cancer and of three of the most common cancers (prostate, lung, breast) compared to warfarin non-use. In a subgroup of people taking warfarin for certain types of abnormal heart rhythms (atrial fibrillation, atrial flutter), cancer risk was lower at any site including the four most common (lung, prostate, breast, and colon).

MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?

Response: Our findings suggest that warfarin, a drug that has been in clinical use for more than 50 years, may protect against cancer. This could have important implications for choosing medications for patients who need anticoagulation.

MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Response: Preclinical studies show that warfarin has antitumor activity at doses that do not inhibit coagulation. This suggests that the antitumor effects of warfarin are not related to anti-coagulation. Studies are ongoing to better understand this important mechanism.

It will be important to determine whether new oral anti-coagulants that have a different mechanism-of-action are associated with lower cancer risk.

Disclosures: Prof. Lorens has ownership interest in BerGenBio

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