An Aspirin a day may Take Cancer Away

Cancer cells obliterated by experimental designer aspirin

(RxWiki News) Imagine that you've just been told you have cancer and you're doctor says, "Take an aspirin a day, and call me in a week." Such a scenario might not be so far-fetched if a super-powerful aspirin works in humans.

A hybrid aspirin developed by scientists at The City College of New York was shown to stall the growth of human colon, pancreatic, lung, prostate, breast cancer and leukemia cells in the lab.

This so-called "NOSH-Aspirin" accomplished this and more  while leaving normal cells healthy and vibrant.

"Always discuss any medications you're taking with your doctor, including aspirin."

Principal investigator Khosrow Kashfi, associate professor, explained, "The key components of this new compound are that it is very, very potent and yet it has minimal toxicity to the cells."

The news doesn't stop there. This impressive compound worked in animal studies, too, shrinking human colon cancer tumors by 85 percent, according to another study by  City College researchers and colleague Kenneth Olson of Indiana University School of Medicine.

"If what we have seen in animals can be translated to humans," said Kashfi, "it could be used in conjunction with other drugs to shrink tumors before chemotherapy or surgery."

Aspirin and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) including Tylenol (ibuprofen) and Aleve (naproxen), have been used for decades to calm inflammation. Recent studies have also found that regular use of these medicines block the growth of cancer.

"There's a lot of data on aspirin showing that when taken on a regular basis, on average it reduces the risk of development of colon cancer by about 50 percent compared to nonusers,"  Kashfi noted.

Not so fast, though. There are dangerous side effects associated with regular aspirin use, including bleeding ulcers and kidney failure.

So to counteract these negatives, the scientists created the new formula to increase aspirin's potency against cancer while diminishing the side effects.

"The hybrid is more potent – and it is more potent by orders of magnitude – compared to aspirin," said Kashfi. It's 100,000 times more potent in treating culture cancer cells than aspirin alone. After 72 hours, it's about 250,000 times more potent than aspirin against colon cancer cell cultures in the lab, according to Kashfi.

What this boils down to is that a drug could be based on this hybrid and be used at lower doses to be beneficial while minimizing and possibly eliminating side effects. 

In the second study, mice that had human colon cancer cells were given an oral dose of NOSH-aspirin. Cancer cells went into self-destruct mode, the tumors shrunk significantly and mice had no toxic side effects.

Kashfi says human therapy using this formula is years away. More studies to test toxicity are planned before clinical trials can begin. Still, he says, the stage is set for this drug to be developed.

The first study was published in journal ACS Medicinal Chemistry Letters. Results from the second study will appear in the journal Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications, now available online

These studies were funded by The National Cancer Institute through a subcontract from ThermoFisher, and also by the National Science Foundation. No further financial disclosures were provided.

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Review Date: 
March 15, 2012