Washington: A new study has claimed that Aspirin and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) protect against the growth of colorectal cancer.
Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute (UPCI) and the School of Medicine found that by inducing cell suicide pathways in intestinal stem cells that carry a certain mutated and dysfunctional gene, the drugs provide a defense against the deadly disease.
Senior investigator Lin Zhang, Ph.D., said that their study identified a biochemical mechanism that could explain how this preventive effect occurs. The findings could help us design new drugs to prevent colorectal cancer, which is the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the country.
The research team performed experiments in animal models and examined tumor samples from patients who had taken NSAIDs and those who hadn't. They found that NSAIDs activate the so-called death receptor pathway, which selectively triggers a suicide program in intestinal stem cells that have a mutation in the APC gene that renders the cells dysfunctional. Healthy cells lack the mutation, so NSAIDs cause them no harm. In that manner, the drugs instigate the early auto-destruction of cells that could lead to precancerous polyps and tumors.
Dr. Zhang said that they want to use the new understanding of this mechanism as a starting point to design better drugs and effective cancer prevention strategies for those at high risk of colon cancer. Ideally, they could harness the tumor-killing traits of NSAIDs and avoid possible side effects that could occur with their chronic use, such as gastrointestinal bleeding and ulcers.
The findings are published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.