How aspirin may block bowel tumour formation


Researchers have shed light on how taking aspirin can help to prevent bowel cancer. They found that the painkiller blocks a key process linked to tumour formation.

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.

Researchers at the University of Edinburgh, funded by the MRC and BBSRC, focused on a structure found inside cells called the nucleolus.

Activation of the nucleolus is known to drive tumour formation and its dysfunction has also been linked to Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

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

They 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 researchers say their findings could help pinpoint those most likely to benefit.

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

Dr Lesley Stark of the Cancer Research UK Edinburgh Centre, MRC Institute of Genetics & Molecular Medicine at the University of Edinburgh, said: “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.”

The research, published in Nucleic Acid Research, was also supported by Worldwide Cancer Research, Bowel and Cancer Research and The Rosetrees Trust.

This article is adapted from materials supplied by the University of Edinburgh.

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The Medical Research Council has been at the forefront of scientific discovery to improve human health. Founded in 1913 to tackle tuberculosis, the MRC now invests taxpayers’ money in some of the best medical research in the world across every area of health.

MRC [Medical Research Council]