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Friday, June 12, 2015

Daily aspirin could block growth of breast, other cancers, lab study suggests

A new lab study found that a daily dose of aspirin was effective at blocking breast tumor growth. Previous studies have already shown a similar effect on colon, gastrointestinal, prostate, and other cancers.

"Take two aspirin and call me in the morning" has been the punchline for countless jokes. Could it also be good advice for cancer patients?

A lab study to appear in the July 2015 issue of Laboratory Investigation found that a daily dose of aspirin was effective at blocking breast tumor growth. Previous studies have already shown a similar effect on colon, gastrointestinal, prostate, and other cancers.

The trick, says Dr. Sushanta Banerjee, research director of the Cancer Research Unit at the Kansas City (Mo.) Veterans Affairs Medical Center, is to ensure conditions around cancer stem cells aren't conducive for reproduction, something aspirin seems able to do.

"In cancer, when you treat the patient, initially the tumor will hopefully shrink," says Banerjee. "The problem comes 5 or 10 years down the road when the disease relapses." Cancer has stem cells, or residual cells. These cells have already survived chemotherapy or other cancer treatment and they go dormant until conditions in the body are more favorable for them to again reproduce. "When they reappear they can be very aggressive, nasty tumors," he says.

To test his theory that aspirin could alter the molecular signature in breast cancer cells enough that they wouldn't spread, Banerjee, also a professor at the University of Kansas Medical Center, used both incubated cells and mouse models.

According to Banerjee, exposure to aspirin dramatically increased the rate of cell death in the test. For those cells that did not die off, many were left unable to grow.

The second part of his study involved studying 20 mice with aggressive tumors.

"We found aspirin caused these residual cancer cells to lose their self-renewal properties," says Banerjee. "Basically, they couldn't grow or reproduce. So there are two parts here. We could give aspirin after chemotherapy to prevent relapse and keep the pressure on, which we saw was effective in both the laboratory and the mouse model, and we could use it preventatively."