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Drug combination reduces polyps for patients with high risk for colorectal cancer

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In a study appearing in the March 22/29 issue of JAMA, Deborah W. Neklason, Ph.D., N. Jewel Samadder, M.D., M.S., of the Huntsman Cancer Institute, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, and colleagues randomly assigned 92 patients with familial adenomatous polyposis to the drugs sulindac twice daily and erlotinib daily (n = 46) or placebo (n = 46) for 6 months.

Familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) is an inherited disorder, and patients with FAP are at markedly increased risk for duodenal (part of the small intestine) polyps and cancer. Surgical and endoscopic management of duodenal neoplasia is difficult and chemoprevention has not been successful.

The researchers found that sulindac in combination with erlotinib effectively reduced the total duodenal polyp burden and polyp number in participants with FAP compared with placebo. This effect was significant after 6 months of therapy.

Grade 1 and 2 adverse events were more common in the sulindac-erlotinib group, with an acne-like rash observed in 87 percent of participants receiving treatment and 20 percent of participants receiving placebo. "Adverse events may limit the use of these medications at the doses used in this study," the authors write.

"Further research is necessary to evaluate these preliminary findings in a larger study population with longer follow-up to determine whether the observed effects will result in improved clinical outcomes."

(doi:10.1001/jama.2016.2522; this study is available pre-embargo at the For The Media website.)

Editor's Note: Please see the article for additional information, including other authors, author contributions and affiliations, financial disclosures, funding and support, etc.

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