Aspirin is latest drug to help fight cancer
Aspirin could help in the fight against cancer, new research suggests.
Scientists have found that when combined with immunotherapy, aspirin suppresses the molecule that allows tumours to attack the body's immune system. Immunotherapy uses medicine to encourage the body to attack cancerous cells.
According to laboratory tests, skin, breast and bowel cancer cells generate the molecule prostaglandin E2 (PGE2) in large quantities. But the painkiller and other Cox inhibitors (a form of anti-inflammatory drug) seems to suppress this molecule, making it hard for the tumours to evade the body's defences.
A combination of immunotherapy and aspirin was tested on mice and "substantially" slowed the growth of bowel and malignant skin cancer.
"We’ve added to the growing evidence that some cancers produce PGE2 as a way of escaping the immune system," Professor Caetano Reis e Sousa, leading the team at the Francis Crick Institute in London, said.
"If you can take away cancer cells’ ability to make PGE2, you effectively lift this protective barrier and unleash the full power of the immune system.
"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."
He adds the research is still in its early stages, but it could provide "life-changing results" for cancer patients.
As the study was carried out on mice, it will still be some time before the combination of drugs can be tested on humans.
The research was funded by Cancer Research UK.