DEC 16, 2016 2:36 PM PST

How Aspirin Slows Tumor Growth in Pancreas and Colon

WRITTEN BY: Xuan Pham

Aspirin, one of the cheapest and most readily available drugs, may slow the spread of two deadly cancer types: colon and pancreatic cancer. The study detailing this link also found that the mechanism behind this anticancer effects has to do with platelets and cancer cells.

Formally known as acetylsalicylic acid (ASA), aspirin is the humble go-to drug used to treat a variety of health conditions like the common fevers, headaches, and inflammation. Doctors also prescribe this drug to reduce the risk of heart attacks for patients who have already had one.

And in recent years, aspirin gained the spotlight again as more research linked it to anti-cancer potential. Previous studies linked aspirin to lowering the risks for colorectal and colon cancer by close to 20 percent. Likely, aspirin’s anti-inflammatory and anti-clotting properties play a big part in its anti-cancer effects, but the exact mechanisms are only beginning to be unraveled.

To better understand aspirin’s effects in cancer, researchers from the Oregon Health & Science University analyzed how several types of cancers respond to low and high dose aspirin. "The current study was designed to determine the effect of inhibition of platelet activation and function by aspirin therapy on colon and pancreatic cancer cell proliferation," the researchers wrote.

The team found that aspirin significantly impaired growth in non-metastatic cancer cells from the colon and pancreas. By contrast, metastatic cells - those that have already invaded other parts of the body - did not seem to be affected by the aspirin. These cells continue to grow and divide, and only stopped when researchers applied very high doses of aspirin.

With further investigations, the team attribute this effect to aspirin’s anti-platelet properties. That is, aspirin seems to restrict the blood platelets from producing growth hormones. This, in turn, impairs the cancer’s ability to divide uncontrollably. In particular, the team pointed to the oncoprotein C-myc as being the most dysregulated by the administration of the drug.

"Our study reveals important differences and specificities in the mechanism of action of high- and low-dose aspirin in metastatic and nonmetastatic cancer cells with different tumor origins and suggests that the ability of aspirin to prevent platelet-induced c-MYC [an oncoprotein] expression might be selective for a nonmetastatic phenotype,” the team wrote.

The results offer additional support for the idea that cheap aspirin, one of the oldest medical compounds in human history, has more to offer than just relieving headaches. However, such results also beg further, more controlled clinical trials to be certain that the wonder drug is as good as we hope it to be.

Additional source: American Physiological Society

About the Author
  • I am a human geneticist, passionate about telling stories to make science more engaging and approachable. Find more of my writing at the Hopkins BioMedical Odyssey blog and at TheGeneTwist.com.
You May Also Like
NOV 22, 2019
Cancer
NOV 22, 2019
The cancerous fear of circular extrachromosomal DNA
New research published in Nature suggests that ring-shaped extrachromosomal DNA (ecDNA) is particularly abundant in tumor cells and plays a malicious role ...
DEC 18, 2019
Drug Discovery & Development
DEC 18, 2019
A tool that simplifies the hunt for cancer drugs
Cells have long been the internal hubs for proteins that hold a wide variety of unique functions. Disorders on how a cell synthesizes a protein can affect ...
DEC 25, 2019
Drug Discovery & Development
DEC 25, 2019
New Drug to Make Breast Cancer Treatment More Affordable
The US Food and Drug Administration has granted accelerated approval to new breast cancer drug, trastuzumab deruxtecan. The drug’s increasing recogni...
JAN 02, 2020
Genetics & Genomics
JAN 02, 2020
Mysterious Extrachromosomal DNA is Linked to Childhood Cancer
Scientists are learning more about an unusual kind of DNA that's separate from a cell's genomic DNA....
JAN 11, 2020
Cancer
JAN 11, 2020
Should we be concerned about talc powder and ovarian cancer?
After the outcry against baby powder and concerns regarding its link to ovarian cancer, still, no investigations have clearly linked the product to the dis...
FEB 12, 2020
Genetics & Genomics
FEB 12, 2020
Vapers Have Epigenetic Alterations Like Those Seen in Smokers
The activity of genes can be altered with chemical tags that get added to the genome, so-called epigenetic modifications....
Loading Comments...