For years, aspirin has been used to treat common ailments such as fever and body pain, but findings of a new study hint that the medicine could also be the next big thing in cancer treatment.
A new study, which was published in Laboratory Investigation on April 13, has found that taking a dose of aspirin a day can stop the growth of breast tumors and even prevent the tumors from coming back.
Earlier studies have also found that the medicine has similar effects on other forms of cancer including those that affect the colon and prostate.
For the study, Sushanta Banerjee, from Kansas City Veterans Affairs Medical Center, and colleagues examined incubated breast cancer cells that were exposed to different doses of acetylsalicylic acid or aspirin, an anti-inflammatory drug.
They found that the cells that were exposed to aspirin were characterized with more cell death than those that were not. They also noticed that many of the cells that thrived were not able to grow.
The researchers likewise conducted a second study involving a group of mice with aggressive tumors. The animals were given aspirin daily for 15 days, after which the tumors were weighed. The researchers found that the tumor in mice that were administered with aspirin were 47 percent smaller.
Banerjee and colleagues also gave a group of mice aspirin for 10 days before they were exposed to cancer cells and found that these mice had less cancer growth compared with their counterparts in the control group.
"We found aspirin caused these residual cancer cells to lose their self-renewal properties," Banerjee said. "Basically, they couldn't grow or reproduce."
The researchers said that aspirin could possibly be given after chemotherapy for preventing relapse. It can also be used to prevent breast cancer.
Despite the promising results of the study, experts said that people should consult with their doctor if they plan to start a daily aspirin regimen. Aspirin is also known to have unwanted side effects such as the thinning of the blood. It also increases risks for gastrointestinal bleeding.
"These studies have raised the tempting possibility that ASA could serve as a preventive medicine for BC. However, lack of in-depth knowledge of the mechanism of action of ASA reshapes the debate of risk and benefit of using ASA in prevention of BC," the researchers wrote.
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