JUN 05, 2018 06:22 PM PDT

Mechanism of Aspirin's Anti-Colon Cancer Effects Revealed

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch

For some people, aspirin can help prevent colon cancer; now researchers have learned more about how that happens. It seems the medicine is able to halt an important process that has been connected to the growth of tumors. The work, which was done by scientists at the University of Edinburgh, has been reported in Nucleic Acid Research. It has also revealed more about how an organelle called the nucleolus senses and responds to stress.

Colon cancer cells / Credit: Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute

The investigators used tumor samples taken from colon cancer patients for part of this work. They exposed cells grown in the lab and from the patient samples to aspirin and assessed the effects. 

Their study was focused on the pathways and processes of the nucleolus, a cellular organelle where vital signaling and processes occur. The scientists found that the actions of an important molecule called TIF-1A are disrupted by aspirin. That molecule is critical for nucleoli to function. Activation of that organelle has been linked, however, to tumor formation; dysfunction in the nucleolus has been connected to Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases.

"We are really excited by these findings as they suggest a mechanism by which aspirin may act to prevent multiple diseases. A better understanding of how aspirin blocks TIF-IA and nucleolar activity provides great promise for the development of new treatments and targeted therapy," said Dr. Lesley Stark, of the Cancer Research UK Edinburgh Centre at the University of Edinburgh.

Long-term use of aspirin can cause internal bleeding and may result in stroke, so even though regular consumption of aspirin is known to reduce a person’s risk of developing the disease, it is not recommended. This work can help show who is most likely to benefit from the drug. Better therapeutics that have similar impacts can also be developed now.

Rates of colon cancer, also known as bowel cancer, have generally been going down. But there has been another trend; it’s on the rise in young people, and researchers don’t know why. The increase has been determined to be about three percent, and some researchers have suggested it could be due to lifestyle factors. The American Cancer Society is now recommending that people begin screening for colon cancer at age 45, instead of 50. Learn more from the video.

Sources: AAAS/Eurkekalert! Via University of Edinburgh, Journal of the National Cancer Institute, Nucleic Acids Research

About the Author
  • Experienced research scientist and technical expert with authorships on 28 peer-reviewed publications, traveler to over 60 countries, published photographer and internationally-exhibited painter, volunteer trained in disaster-response, CPR and DV counseling.
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