Aspirin and other household drugs might inhibit the spread of cancer because they help shut down the chemical “highways” that feed tumors, Australian researchers said yesterday.
Scientists at Melbourne’s Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre said they have made a biological breakthrough helping explain how lymphatic vessels — key to the transmission of tumors throughout the body — respond to cancerous growths.
“We’ve shown that molecules like the aspirin ... could effectively work by reducing the dilation of these major vessels and thereby reducing the capacity of tumors to spread to distant sites,” researcher Steven Stacker said.
Doctors have long suspected that non-steroidal anti--inflammatory drugs such as aspirin help inhibit the spread of cancer, but they have been unable to pinpoint exactly how this is done.
By studying cells in lymphatic vessels, the researchers found that a particular gene changed its expression in cancers which spread, but not when the cancer did not spread.
The results published in the journal Cancer Cell reveal that the gene is a link between a tumor’s growth and the cellular pathway which can cause inflammation and dilation of vessels throughout the body.
Once these lymphatic vessels widen, the capacity for them to act as “supply lines” to tumors and become more effective conduits for the cancer to spread is increased.
However, aspirin acts to shut down the dilation of the vessels.
“So it seems like we have found a pivotal junction point in a biochemical sense between all these different contributors,” Stacker said.
The discovery could lead to new and improved drugs which could help contain many solid tumors, including breast and prostate cancer, as well as potentially provide an “early warning system” before a tumor begins to spread.