Aspirin has already been hailed as a wonder drug that can take care of everything from Alzheimer's disease to heart attacks. It has now emerged that it can also induce cancer cells to commit suicide.
Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh report in the December 9 issue of the Journal of Biological Chemistry that aspiration can prove to be deadly for cancer cells in combination with a new therapy called as tumor necrosis factor-related apoptosis-inducing ligand (TRAIL). They add that if these findings are corroborated in larger clinical studies then aspirin could prove to be a blessing for the treatment of recurring colon and prostate cancers. "When cancers recur after initial therapy, they tend to be extremely aggressive and patient prognosis is poor. If we could find ways to prevent these secondary cancers from occurring, we could save many lives. Aspirin is a low-cost medicine that, in our studies, appears to have great potential for helping to prevent such cancer recurrences,' commented Yong J. Lee, Ph.D., professor in the departments of surgery and pharmacology, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, and lead author of the study.
TRAIL is basically a protein that has been found to trigger apoptosis or programmed death of cancer cells with little or no effect on the normal ones. However, many studies have highlighted the fact that some cancers are resistant to TRAIL. It is in this scenario that aspirin proves to be useful. It was found that when cancer cells were pre-treated with aspirin they lost a key protein called Bcl-2, which protects healthy cells from premature death.'In this study we demonstrated that aspirin can down-regulate Bcl-2 gene expression and consequently change the electrical potential of the mitochondrial membrane in cancer cells, thereby releasing cytochrome c and other apoptotic proteins,' said Dr Lee. This study could indeed hold a key as far as preventing of aggressive recurrence of cancers is concerned.
Other authors of the study include Kim M. Kim, Ph.D., and Jae J. Song, Ph.D., department of surgery, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, and Jee Young An, Ph.D., and Yong Tae Kwon, Ph.D., Center for Pharmacogenetics, department of pharmaceutical sciences, University of Pittsburgh School of Pharmacy.
Jim Swyers / Clare Collins
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University of Pittsburgh Medical Center