Institute of Genetics and Cancer

Cancer fighting effects of aspirin revealed in bowel tumour study

Regular use of aspirin is known to reduce a person’s risk of developing colon cancer but the drug’s tumour fighting properties have not been well understood: June 2018

Lesley Stark
Dr Lesley Stark - Senior author of the work published in Nucleic Acids Research.

Dr Lesley Stark’s research group have found that the painkiller blocks a key process linked to tumour formation, shedding light on how taking aspirin can help to stave off bowel cancer.

The study focused on a structure found inside cells called the nucleolus. Activation of the nucleolus is known to drive tumour formation and dysfunction has also been linked to Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

The study tested the effects of aspirin on cells grown in the lab and on tumour biopsies removed from colon cancer patients.

The research found that aspirin blocks a key molecule called TIF-IA, which is essential for the nucleolus to function.

Not all colon cancer patients respond to aspirin, but the findings could help pinpoint those most likely to benefit.

We are really excited by these findings as they suggest a mechanism by which aspirin may act to prevent multiple diseases. A better understanding of how aspirin blocks TIF-IA and nucleolar activity provides great promise for the development of new treatments and targeted therapy.

Dr Lesley StarkCancer Research UK Edinburgh Centre, MRC Institute of Genetics and Molecular Medicine at the University of Edinburgh

Aspirin has side effects that include internal bleeding and it can cause certain types of stroke. Long term use is not recommended. The study paves the way for the development of new, safer therapies that mimic aspirin’s effects.

The research, published in Nucleic Acid Research, was funded by the Medical Research Council and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council. Worldwide Cancer Research, Bowel and Cancer Research and The Rosetrees Trust also supported the work.

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