Fri, Aug 15, 2003 - Page 7 News List

Aspirin adds to its list of cures and successes


Scientists Wednesday floated the possibility that the versatile drug aspirin could be used as a treatment for some rare forms of cancer.

Its first appearance in this field might be in some form of gel to treat an unusual inherited skin condition but the century-old wonder drug, or one of its stronger anti-inflammatory cousins, might also be effective in fighting breast cancer, researchers suggested.

Hardly a month goes by without some new use being mooted for the cheap painkiller. Its role in preventing heart disease is long established but more recently there has been much excitement among researchers at its potential for cutting the risk of a broad range of cancers.

Now there is a strengthening belief that it might become a treatment option, too, as research letters published today in Nature, the science journal, take the debate further.

British and Greek scientists have found that a cancer called turban tumor syndrome, in which huge mushroom-shaped tumors grow out of the scalp and other hairy parts of the body, is caused when the body's inflammatory response becomes overactive.

A gene that should control a molecule involved in this process is damaged, helping to fuel the growth of cancer cells and keep them alive.

The researchers, including a team from Cancer Research UK, believe aspirin or a stronger relative could counter the molecule in the absence of a healthy gene.

Support for the theory comes from separate research by Dutch scientists also reported today. They found that aspirin could kill cancer cells in the laboratory.

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