Aspirin may block growth of breast cancer tumours
Aspirin, which has already been laboratory tested as being a cancer tumour growth inhibitor in case of colon, gastrointestinal, prostate, and other cancers, has proved its mettle once again by effectively blocking breast tumor growth.
The reason – researchers say – is that Aspirin makes the conditions non-conducive for cancer stem cells to reproduce and grow.
According to Dr. Sushanta Banerjee, research director of the Cancer Research Unit at the Kansas City (Mo.) Veterans Affairs Medical Center, initial treatments may hopefully shrink the tumour, but the real problem is about 5 or 10 years down the line when the disease relapses.
Cancer has stem cells, or residual cells, which may have survived chemotherapy or other cancer treatment. These cells go dormant until conditions in the body are more favorable for them to again reproduce and this is when they reappear and start reproducing and growing more aggressive and nasty tumors.
Banerjee has a theory whereby aspirin could alter the molecular signature in breast cancer cells enough that they wouldn’t spread. To test this theory, she used both incubated cells and mouse models.
For the cell test, breast cancer cells were placed in 96 separate plates and then incubated. Just over half the cultures were exposed to differing doses of acetylsalicylic acid, commonly known as aspirin.
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. For 15 days, half the mice were given the human equivalent of 75 milligrams of aspirin per day, which is considered a low dose. At the end of the study period, the tumors were weighed. Mice that received aspirin had tumors that were, on average, 47 percent smaller.
To show that aspirin could also prevent cancer, the researchers gave an additional group of mice aspirin for 10 days before exposing them to cancer cells.
After 15 days, those mice had significantly less cancerous growth than the control group.
“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.”
Experts suggest patients consult with a doctor before starting a daily aspirin regimen. The drug is known to thin the blood and increase the risk of gastrointestinal bleeding.
“Of course there is a risk,” says Banerjee, “but you have to weigh that against the risks of cancer. It’s true this is relatively new and we don’t know all the side effects yet, but this was a very low dose.”
Nevertheless, Banerjee is taking his own medicine. For three years he has been on a daily aspirin regimen with, he says, no ill effects. Each person, he stresses, should of course check with his or her own health care provider before doing the same.