A Research Blog

aspirinAspirin is the poster child for repurposed drugs. It was initially used over a century ago to treat pain, fever and inflammation. In the 1980s, researchers noted that its mild blood thinning side effect was highly effective in preventing recurrent heart attacks and strokes. Now, the interest in aspirin has shifted from cardiovascular to cancer prevention and treatment. In fact, the National Cancer Institute in the United States highlighted the role of aspirin in cancer treatment as one of the most ‘provocative questions’ to answer in 2012.

Multiple studies have shown a link between long-term aspirin use and a reduction in the incidence and mortality of several cancer types, including colorectal, stomach, esophageal, breast, lung, prostate and liver cancers.

Professor Hui Kam Man, an adjunct professor with the Cancer & Stem Cell Biology Programme in Duke-NUS Medical School, and Dr Xia Hongping, a researcher with National Cancer Centre Singapore (NCCS), reviewed such studies, and highlighted the emergence of aspirin in chemoprevention (preventing cancer) and as an adjuvant therapy in cancer.1

The authors focused on hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) or commonly known as liver cancer, which is one of the most common cancers worldwide. As HCC tends to have a poor prognosis, chemoprevention (preventing cancer) is an appealing strategy, and studies have shown the potential value of aspirin in chemoprevention. Moreover, aspirin has shown anti-tumour effects in animal models as well as in clinical trials. The authors had previously demonstrated in an earlier paper that aspirin also works in synergy with sorafenib, the only FDA-approved molecular inhibitor for the systemic therapy of advanced HCC.

A multi-centre trial by oncologists at NCCS — The ASCOLT study — had indicated that aspirin was important as there were now only a few drugs that can prevent high-risk stage 2 and stage 3 colon cancer from recurring after surgery.2

The study was supported by grants from the National Medical Research Council of Singapore, SingHealth Foundation, National Young 1000 Talents Program of China and Jiangsu Province Education Department Grant.

References

1Xia H and Hu KM. Emergence of aspirin as a promising chemopreventive and chemotherapeutic agent for liver cancer. Cell Death and Disease (2017) 8: e3112; doi:10.1038/cddis.2017.513

2Ali R, Toh H-C, Chia W-K, The ASCOLT trial investigators. The utility of Aspirin in dukes C and high risk dukes B colorectal cancer - The ASCOLT study: study protocol for a randomized controlled trial. Trials (2011) 12: 261.

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