The co-authors of Invasion of the Prostate Snatchers, blog alternate posts weekly. We invite you to post your comments.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

The Humble Aspirin to the Rescue! Or Does an Aspirin a Day Help Keep Cancer Away?


There is reason to be grateful for this simple “wonder drug,” discovered in the mid-19th century by Friedrich Bayer and his partner, Johann Friedrich Weskott, in Barmen (today a part of Wuppertal), Germany—a modification of salicylic acid or salicin, which is actually a folk remedy found in the bark of the willow plant.

We keep aspirin around. We take it for headaches, to relieve pain, as a deterrent to heart attack and stroke.  Now, a new light illuminates the potential value of this humble drug.  Studies have shown the possible efficacy of aspirin and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs acting to reduce the risk of dying from cancer. It is suggested that these drugs inhibit the accumulation of somatic genome abnormalities, also known as SGA’s, that result in uncontrolled cancer cell growth. It appears that aspirin acts to slow the speed of mutation.

According to a study published in The Journal of Clinical Oncology, men being treated for prostate cancer who were taking aspirin regularly for other medical conditions were likely to live longer than men who were not taking aspirin.

The 2012 multi-center study was not a randomized controlled clinical trial of the kind that is considered the gold standard, but it adds to an intriguing and growing body of evidence suggesting that aspirin prevents the growth of tumor cells in a variety of cancers, including prostate cancer. Especially in high-risk disease for which there is no very good treatment. The risk of the cancer returning, and of it spreading to the bones, was significantly lower, as was the risk of dying from the disease.

According to Peter Rothwell of Oxford University, one of the leading experts on aspirin and cancer, “Aspirin reduces the likelihood that cancers will spread to distant organs by about 40-50 percent.”

Dr. Kevin S. Choe, assistant professor of radiation at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas and lead author of the paper, said that while it would be ideal to conduct a randomized study, doing so with prostate cancer patients would be difficult because the natural progression of the disease is so slow that you would have to follow men for many years. He added, significantly, that little money is available for research on aspirin because it is cheap and easily available!

One of the problems with aspirin therapy is you have to be patient and consistent, as most studies have found that it only becomes effective in 2-3 years. Also there is a risk-versus-benefit equation due to aspirin’s gastric and bleeding effects. However, cancer survivors concerned about recurrence, and those being treated for cancer worried about metastases should discuss an aspirin regimen with their doctor.

No comments: