Biomedical

Can Aspirin Prevent Cancer?

A new study by Cancer Research UK, aims to determine the effects of aspirin in cancer patients. According to some studies, aspirin has the ability to reduce the risk of cancer. This study, focuses on cancer patients and whether aspirin can lower their chances of developing cancer again after treatment.

It may seem weird that aspirin has such effects but it really seems that it works. It will not cure cancer, or make you immune to it, but statistically it will lower the chances of someone developing cancer in most cases. This is why it has attracted so much attention and funding, which in this case is more than £5 Million. This project will be led by Cancer Research UK epidemiology expert professor Jack Cuzick, epidemiologists and clinical trial experts from the Harvard University, Newcastle University and University College London.

Some facts first.

Aspirin, a very common drug you probably know about, is used to treat mainly pain, fever and inflammation. Aspiring acts in the pathways of prostaglandins and thromboxanes, to suppress their expression. Then it also acts on COX-1 and 2 by inhibiting them, as well as in other cellular pathways. By studying the effects of aspirin on the cellular level, it is clear that inflammation is heavily influenced by the drug. The NF-κB pathway is affected, which has the ability to modulate the inflammatory response. Finally as a drug it is mostly safe, with only some side-effects that mostly influence young children and pregnant women.

Cancer and Inflammation.

Inflammation is the body’s natural response to damage. When there is cell death or infection, inflammation is what will constitute the first line of defence against that issue. When the issue is no longer present inflammation goes away. It seems like a very simple system, and indeed it is, but the cellular mechanisms and signals involved are complex. They turn on and off by small changes in tons of variables. For example, an unhealthy diet, can lead to small oxidative damage, that in turn can trigger inflammation in some tiny amount. If that is chronic though, if it lasts for many months or years, damage may be accumulated. This is because inflammation is not perfect in dealing with small pathogens or toxins. While doing it’s job, it can cause more harm in the organism.

Cancer, can cause more inflammation, but is not easily managed by inflammatory processes. And inflammation, even unrelated to cancer, may cause cell damage, that could as well lead to cancer eventually.

It is logical then, that inflammatory pathways have been studied in terms of their effects on cancer. It is also logical, that aspirin, could affect cancer, by affecting inflammatory pathways. Recent studies reach similar conclusions, basically that while cancer and inflammation are related, one does not necessarily cause the other, and one cannot necessarily treat the other. But, it can help, thus this study now. If aspirin affects inflammatory pathways that are dysfunctional in certain types of cancer, and as a results stops/prevents the progression of the disease, then it may help patients.

Sources: Cancer and inflammation, Cancer Research UK to study anti-cancer properties of aspirin

Image: https://pixabay.com/en/headache-pain-pills-medication-1540220/

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