Taking aspirin daily decreases risk of colorectal cancer, researchers find
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.
The study is published in the journal of Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers, and Prevention.
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,” 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.”
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.
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.
“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, Ulrich explained.