NOV 19, 2015 7:30 PM PST

New Mechanism Found for Aspirin's Role in Cancer Prevention

WRITTEN BY: Julianne Chiaet
Scientists have known for a while that taking low daily doses of aspirin decreases the odds of a person having a heart attack, stroke, and many types of cancer. The types of cancer include prostate, lung, colorectal, and esophageal. These studies looked at the anti-inflammatory and anti-clotting roles of aspirin due to the fact that cancer patients are at a higher risk for blood clots, and inflammation plays a major role in the development of cancer.

Still, concerns over the drug’s side effects kept many doctors from recommending it to patients as a preventative measure. Serious, albeit rare, side effects include severe gastrointestinal bleeding, inflammation of the stomach, and vertigo.
Generic regular strength enteric coated 325mg aspirin tablets

Researchers at the Huntsman Cancer Institute wanted be able to tailor aspirin to people who would benefit the most and be at the smallest risk of side effects, says Cornelia Ulrich, Senior Director of Population Sciences at Huntsman Cancer Institute in Salt Lake City.

In a new study published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers, and Prevention, Ulrich and her team of researchers found that aspirin plays a key role in interrupting multiple pathways that are linked to cancer development.

The researchers used a new technique to identify a new metabolic pathway, which is a series of chemical reactions that occur within a cell. The technique, called metabolite profiling, is an analytical method for quantifying metabolites from biological samples.

The study was divided into two parts. The first part of the study involved evaluating the metabolic profiles of blood from 40 individuals who took aspirin for 60 days. Each participant had a phase taking and not taking aspirin. The researchers analyzed over 360 metabolites. “This study covered most of the known biochemical pathways in the body,” Ulrich says.

They noticed a significant decrease of 2-hydroxyglurate in cultured cancer cells. The chemical 2-hydroxyglutarate is considered a driver of cancer development. Elevated levels of the chemical have been found in certain blood and brain cancers. They followed-up this finding in the second part of the study.

The team used colorectal (colon) cancer cell lines. Colorectal cancer is the third most common type of cancer in the United States. They treated the cells with aspirin and found that the primary metabolite of aspirin (salicylate) restrains an enzyme that triggers the production of 2-hydroxyglutarate. The drug ultimately decreased the level of 2-hydroxyglutarate in two colorectal (colon) cancer cell lines by up to 34 percent.

While this is promising, the researchers have only observed the changes in 2-hydroglurate levels in culture cancer cells and in blood plasma. Additional studies are necessary to see whether these changes are present in actual colon tissue.

Sources: Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah via Newswise
About the Author
  • Julianne (@JuliChiaet) covers health and medicine for LabRoots. Her work has been published in The Daily Beast, Scientific American, and MailOnline. While primarily a science journalist, she has also covered culture and Japanese organized crime. She is the New York Board Representative for the Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA). • To read more of her writing, or to send her a message, go to
You May Also Like
JUN 07, 2020
Genetics & Genomics
JUN 07, 2020
An Imaging Tool That Could Speed the Diagnosis of Rare Diseases
When children have a rare genetic disease and do not have access to whole-genome sequencing and the analysis it requires ...
JUN 23, 2020
Health & Medicine
JUN 23, 2020
New Evidence Medical Cannabis Can Lead to Decreased Opioid Use in Chronic Pain
For people with long term ongoing pain, medical cannabis is a valid option that could pave the way to reduced use of opi ...
JUN 28, 2020
JUN 28, 2020
A Brief History of the 1918 Pandemic Flu
The 1918 pandemic flu was caused by a variant of the HIN1 strain of the influenza virus, and its genome shows that it pr ...
JUN 29, 2020
Cell & Molecular Biology
JUN 29, 2020
New Insight Into the Loss of Neurons in Alzheimer's Disease
Researchers have been working to understand Alzheimer's disease for over 100 years. A major feature of the disease is th ...
JUL 02, 2020
Drug Discovery & Development
JUL 02, 2020
Common Asthma Drug Could Treat Alzheimer's
Researchers from Lancaster University, England, have found that Salbutamol, a medication commonly used to treat asthma, ...
JUL 03, 2020
Cell & Molecular Biology
JUL 03, 2020
A Gut Pathogen Moves With Help From Its Environment
Campylobacter jejuni is a foodborne bacterial pathogen that causes millions of cases of food poisoning each year.
Loading Comments...