Aspirin has been used for generations, for many ailments from fever and achy joints to prevention of strokes and heart attacks. There has even been some evidence that aspirin can prevent certain cancers, such as colon cancer. But now, researchers have discovered that using aspirin could be an adjunct to current cancer treatments in stopping the spread of cancer cells after a tumor has initially formed.
The problem (like any medicine) is that many people may not tolerate the drug or respond well. So scientists are trying to develop genetic tests to determine who would benefit the most with long-term use of aspirin. The many mechanisms behind how aspirin prevents inflammation is well known. But for a tumor to metastasize is a complex process.
Platelets, usually known to assist in blood clotting, have an important role in allowing tumor cells to spread. Cancer cells rely on platelets to clump, or stick together so they can hide from the immune system. Aspirin apparently turns certain genes on or off in the cells that give rise to platelets that prevent clumping. The cancer cells are then exposed to the immune system so they can be destroyed.
There is still a lot of work to be done. The next step is to repeat these experiments in larger, more diverse groups of people to better understand the normal functions of these aspirin-sensitive genes.
Pretty amazing stuff!
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