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The popular anti-inflammatory drug celecoxib, more commonly known as Celebrex, could significantly reduce the number skin cancer tumors among people who have a rare condition called Gorlin syndrome. Patients with this genetic condition are highly vulnerable to developing skin basal cell carcinoma, the most common type of skin cancer, and often experience hundreds or even thousands of these tumors over a lifetime.

Celecoxib is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) differs from other NSAIDs in that it inhibits the inflammation-causing enzymes called cyclo-oxygenase 2 (COX-2), whereas other NSAIDs such as ibuprofen, aspirin, and naproxen inhibit mainly COX-1 enzymes. Previous research has shown celecoxib to have success in opposing squamous cell carcinoma, another type of skin cancer. In addition, other research has suggested that COX inhibitors in general can have anticancer effects.

According to Ervin H. Epstein, Jr., M.D., of Children's Hospital of Oakland Research Institute, and colleagues, the COX-2 inhibitor celecoxib may substantially decrease the vulnerability of Gorlin syndrome patients of developing basal cell carcinoma tumors. In a Phase II trial, the use of celecoxib in patients with Gorlin syndrome slowed the increase of tumors by 11 to 30 percent. These significant effects were seen in patients having less severe cases of the condition. A report on the findings was recently published in the American Association for Cancer Research’s journal Cancer Prevention Research.

Gorlin syndrome, also known as nevoid basal cell carcinoma syndrome, is a condition that affects multiple areas of the body, and increases the likelihood of developing various types of benign tumors. It is caused by a genetic mutation of the PTCH1 gene that is often inherited from one affected parent. Although the PTCH1 gene normally provides instructions for making a protein functions to keep cell growth in check, the mutated gene prevents production of the protein or results in an abnormal version.

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