Aspirin said to boost cancer immunotherapy effectiveness

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Time and again studies have pointed out aspirin as being helpful against cancer and a new study echoes this by showing that aspirin could boost the effectiveness of immunotherapy in cancer patients.

According to a new study published in journal Cell, Aspirin stops the production of prostaglandin E2 (PGE2) – which are produced in high quantities in skin, breast and bowel cancers. The PGE2 molecules affect the immune system by dampening its normal response of attacking the cancer cells. It is believed to be one of the tricks that tumours have at their disposal to fend off immune system response.

Aspirin is basically a collection of molecules called COX inhibitors which are known to stop the production of PGE2 thereby helping the immune system to reawaken and carry out the necessary attacks on the cancerous cells. This is what researchers to test out Aspirin in conjunction with immunotherapies and the results are very promising.

“PGE2 acts on many different cells in our body, and this study suggests that one of these actions is to tell our immune system to ignore cancer cells”, says Professor Peter Johnson, Cancer Research UK’s chief clinician. “Once you stop the cancer cells from producing it, the immune system switches back to ‘kill mode’ and attacks the tumour.”

Because of PGE2 there have been instances where immunotherapies haven’t yielded the desired results raising doubts on the therapy itself. However, the latest findings will give immunotherapies. Aspirin effectively lifts the protective barrier that has been shielding the cancerous cells from the immune system and once the barrier is down, immune system can unleash its full potential.

“Giving patients COX inhibitors like aspirin at the same time as immunotherapy could potentially make a huge difference to the benefit they get from treatment. It’s still early work but this could help make cancer immunotherapy even more effective, delivering life-changing results for patients”, said Study author Professor Caetano Reis e Sousa, senior group leader at the Francis Crick Institute.