Scientists have been aware for years now that aspirin does seem to be useful in fighting certain types of cancer. The exact mechanisms of this effect are only starting to be understood. Latest research managed to shed some light on the way aspirin manages to stop the spread of certain types of cancerous cells.
The Complexities Behind A Simple Pill
A team of scientists from Oregon Health and Science University and Oregon State University decided to identify the exact mechanisms that make aspirin efficient in fighting certain types of cancer, specifically several types of pancreas and colon tumors.
Aspirin, if taken in small amounts, has been known to reduce the risk of developing certain types of cancers that affect the gastrointestinal tract. On the other hand, the manner in which it reduces the spread of tumors was still not very clear.
As a result, researchers isolated three types of cancerous cells (from the colon and pancreas) and evaluated the manner in which they reacted to aspirin. The non-metastatic cancer cells from both the pancreas and colon proved to be severely affected, as their growth and replication slowed down massively.
On the other hand, metastatic colon cells (from cases in which the tumor has spread to other tissues outside the colon) continued to replicate, even in the presence of aspirin.
The scientists conducting the study think the cause of the effect is represented by the anti-platelet effect of the well-known medicine.
Platelets are blood cells that participate in the clotting process. In the case of cancerous tissues, platelets increase their development by releasing certain proteins that simulate growth. When aspirin is added, this effect is strongly reduced and platelets are no longer able to stimulate the growth of the cancerous tissues, at least in the case of non-metastatic tumors, as stated by the team of researchers.
"Our study reveals important differences and specificities in the mechanism of action of high- and low-dose aspirin in metastatic and non-metastatic cancer cells with different tumor origins," noted the team.
The new discovery opens new avenues for both the prevention and treatment of certain types of cancer, confirming what has been known for quite some time — the cheap medicine most people have in their homes can prove to be a great weapon against certain types of cancer.
One Of The Oldest Medicines In History
Initially extracted from willow by ancient civilizations like the Sumerians, aspirin is one of the first anti-inflammatory substances used for treating humans.
Although it is one of the most common medicines used today, it is also one of the most researched, as almost 1,000 clinical trials are conducted every year to discover new ways it could be used.