Islamabad – Aspirin is known to reduce the risk of heart attack. But, aspirin could also prove a vital tool in the fight against another leading cause of death across the world – cancer.
The painkiller decreases the risk of colorectal cancer, and could prove effective against other forms of the disease, scientists said.
It was found to lower the level of 2-hydroxyglutarate, a chemical considered a ‘driver of cancer development’ and thought by some scientists to promote the formation of tumours.
Dr Cornelia UIrich, of the Huntsman Cancer Institute in Salt Lake City, said aspirin has been shown to decrease the risk of cancer.
Aspirin could help prevent colon cancer, and other forms of the disease, after scientists discovered it lowers level of a key chemical, which is thought to be a ‘driver of cancer development.’ But, the risk of side effects, including some cases of severe gastrointestinal bleeding, makes it necessary to better understand the mechanisms by which the drug acts at low doses, before it can be recommended as a preventative treatment, she said.
‘In the long run we want to personalise prevention with aspirin because like everything it can have side effects,’ Dr Ulrich said.
‘We want to be able to tailor it to people who are most likely to have benefit and to have the lowest risk of adverse outcomes.’
Dr Ulrich and her team used a new technique, metabolite profiling, to identify a biochemical pathway previously unknown to be regulated by aspirin.
They found the painkiller ‘substantially decreases’ the level of 2-hydroxyglutarate in the blood of healthy volunteers and in two colorectal cancer cell lines.
Elevated levels of the chemical have been found in certain cancers of the blood and brain, and several studies are currently exploring whether it is responsible for the formation of cancerous tumours.
Dr Ulrich said the findings add to the overall evidence that aspirin is important for cancer prevention and points to a new pathway that warrants further exploration.
Colorectal cancer is one of the most prevalent forms of the disease across the world, and was responsible for 694 000 deaths in 2012 – WHO
‘It is really exciting that aspirin which can work in colorectal cancer prevention, is now linked to a new pathway that has shown to be relevant for cancer formation,’ she said.
The first stage of the study involved looking comprehensively at the metabolic profiles from the blood of 40 people who had taken aspirin for 60 days.
Participants each had a phase with and without aspirin.
More than 360 metabolites, or small molecule chemicals such as sugars, amino acids and vitamins were analysed, Dr Ulrich explained.
She said: ‘This study covered most of the known biochemical pathways in the body.’
Her team discovered that aspirin metabolites were increased in the volunteers as expected.
But, they also noted statistically significant changes in a metabolite that has been found to drive cancer development – 2-hydroxyglutarate, which was reduced by 12 per cent.
To follow-up this result in the lab, the researchers evaluated the levels of 2-hydroxyglutarate in cultured cancer cells after treatment with aspirin.
The colorectal cells lines showed consistent reductions in 2-hydroxyglutarate, up to 34 per cent.
Dr Ulrich said future research will need to determine whether the changes in 2-hydroxyglutarate levels after aspirin treatment, observed in blood plasma and cultured cancer cells, are also present in colon tissue.
NEO Web Desk