Taking aspirin could help to prevent bowel cancer, researchers have suggested.
Regular use of aspirin is known to reduce the risk of developing colon cancer but the drug’s tumour fighting properties have not been well understood. Researchers at the University of Edinburgh have found that the painkiller blocks a key process linked to tumour formation, shedding light on how taking aspirin can help to stave off bowel cancer.
The study focused on a structure found inside cells called the nucleolus. Activation of the nucleolus is known to drive tumour formation and its dysfunction has been linked to Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, researchers said.
The study tested the effects of aspirin on cells grown in the lab and on tumour biopsies removed from colon cancer patients. The research found that aspirin blocks a key molecule called TIF-IA, which is essential for the nucleolus to function. Researchers said that while not all colon cancer patients respond to aspirin, the findings could help pinpoint those most likely to benefit.
Aspirin has side effects that include internal bleeding, can cause certain types of stroke and its long-term use is not recommended. Researchers said the study paves the way for the development of new, safer therapies that mimic aspirin’s effects.
Dr Lesley Stark, of the Cancer Research UK Edinburgh Centre, MRC Institute of Genetics & Molecular Medicine at the University of Edinburgh, said: “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.”
The research, published in Nucleic Acid, was funded by the Medical Research Council and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, and also supported by Worldwide Cancer Research, Bowel and Cancer Research and The Rosetrees Trust.