Aspirin Saves Cancer Patients' Lives After Heart Attack

Study results could change standard practice, researchers say

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THURSDAY, Jan. 25, 2007 (HealthDay News) -- Due to fears of causing deadly bleeding, many doctors don't give lifesaving aspirin to cancer patients who have heart attacks. But these patients are actually more likely to die if they don't receive aspirin, new U.S. research suggests.

Doctors are hesitant to give aspirin to these patients because aspirin can thin blood, and cancer patients may already have low blood platelet counts and abnormal blood clotting, explained researchers at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. Blood platelets are responsible for the clotting process.

However, in their study, the Texas team found that nine of 10 cancer patients with low platelet count (thrombocytopenia) who had a heart attack and did not receive aspirin died, compared to just one patient death in a group of 17 cancer/heart attack patients who were given aspirin.

Patients with low platelet counts who did not received aspirin had a seven-day survival rate of 6 percent, compared with a 90 percent rate for patients who were given aspirin.

Aspirin also improved survival in cancer patients with normal platelet count who have heart attacks, the study found. Seven-day survival in patients with normal platelet counts who received aspirin was 88 percent, compared to 45 percent in patients who did not receive the drug.

The study is available online and is expected to be in the Feb. 1 print issue of Cancer.

The findings challenge current medical beliefs and will likely change treatment for cancer patients who suffer a heart attack, the researchers said.

More information

The American Heart Association has more about heart attack treatments.

SOURCE: University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, news release, Jan. 19, 2007

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