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Arrested Development

Aspirin may inhibit growth of tumors responsible for hearing loss

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Researchers from HMS, Massachusetts Eye and Ear, Massachusetts General Hospital, and MIT have shown that aspirin intake can inhibit the growth of vestibular schwannomas, intracranial tumors that typically cause tinnitus and hearing loss and are sometimes lethal.


Vestibular schwannomas, also known as acoustic neuromas, are the most common tumors found in the cerebellopontine angle, a fluid-filled space in the brain through which several cranial nerves pass. These schwannomas grow along the vestibulocochlear nerve, the cranial nerve responsible for transmitting auditory and balance information from the inner ear to the brain, and they develop from Schwann cells, which form the myelin that insulates nerves.

“Currently, there are no FDA-approved drug therapies to treat these tumors,” says study leader Konstantina Stankovic ’99, an HMS assistant professor of otology and laryngology at Mass Eye and Ear and a member of the faculty of the HMS Program in Speech and Hearing Bioscience and Technology. “Current options for the management of growing vestibular schwannomas include surgery or radiation therapy, each of which can have potentially serious complications.”
Surgical access to these tumors, for example, usually involves removing a section of the skull to expose the brain and provide a route to the tumor. 


The findings, reported in the February issue of the journal Otology and Neurotology, were based on a retrospective study of 689 people who had been diagnosed with vestibular schwannoma at Mass Eye and Ear. Fifty percent of the patients had had their tumor progression monitored by serial MRI scans. The scientists gathered data on the rate of tumor growth as determined by changes to the largest tumor dimension measured in the MRIs, and correlated it with patients’ use of aspirin. The researchers found that regardless of age or gender, the greater the use of aspirin, the smaller the rate of tumor growth.

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