Come painkiller aspirin could be the “wonder drug” that stops tumors growing, experts claim.
While aspirin is not part of mainstream treatment for cancer, it is widely recommended to some adult to help prevent bowel cancer.
Until now, scientists have been baffled as to how the drug wards off cancer.
Most put it down to its inflammation-lowering properties.
But scientists from Veterans Affairs in Texas have discovered that aspirin’s cancer-fighting qualities could have something to do with how it reacts with platelets – the blood cells that form clots to stop bleeding.
Platelets also help form new blood vessels.
That action is normally beneficial, such as when a new clot forms after a wound, and new vessels are needed to redirect blood flow.
But the same action can help tumors grow.
Aspirin can interrupt this process, scientists discovered.
Lab tests found that aspirin blocked the interaction between platelets and cancer cells by shutting down a key enzyme, called COX-1.
Some experiments used regular aspirin bought over the counter, others used a specially designed mix of aspirin and a fat molecule found in soy lecithin, designed to minimize the intentional damage aspirin can cause.
That product is called Aspirin-PC/PL2200.
Summarising their research, published in Cancer Prevention Research, they said: “These results suggest that aspirin’s chemopreventive effects may be due, in part, to the drug blocking the proneoplastic [supporting new, abnormal growth, as in cancer] action of platelets and they support the potential use of Aspirin-PC/PL2200 as an effective and safer chemopreventive agent for colorectal cancer and possibly other cancers.”
They say their results so far “support the use of low-dose aspirin for chemoprevention.”
The drug is also known for its ability to reduce the risk of heart disease.
But there has long been conflicting advice on the long-term impact of taking aspirin daily which may stop people taking it.
The US government-backed panel of experts, the US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), say the drug can reduce heart disease and bowel cancer.
But the US’s Food and Drug Administration said some patients, particularly those over 60, had an increased risk of stroke and bleeding – both gastrointestinal and in the brain – if they take aspirin daily.
Last year scientists at the University of Southern California said the painkiller is a life-saver for elderly patients with heart disease – and, if more took it, more would survive.
They said taking the drug “should be considered a standard part of care for the appropriate patient.”
This article originally appeared on The Sun.
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