Aspirin could prevent cancer

A modification of the common aspirin drug may help protect against cancer

A key ingredient of the multi-purpose aspirin pill could prevent cancer without dangerous side effects.

Aspirin is a very successful drug in acting as a painkiller and has anti-inflammatory effects, however, regular use has been shown to increase the risk of stomach bleeding.

But, once digested aspirin breaks down into salicylate and switches on an enzyme called AMPK, which breaks down fat and plays a key role in cancer and diabetes.

‘We have shown that, unlike other aspirin targets, AMPK is only affected by salicylate, the breakdown product of aspirin in the body, and not by the aspirin itself,’ says Professor Grahame Hardie of the University of Dundee where the research took place.

Scientists are now aiming to test salicylate directly in mouse models of cancer to see what role the AMPK enzyme has on its effectiveness.

‘If we can prove that the anti-cancer effects are mediated by AMPK, then other salicylate-based drugs, with fewer side effects than aspirin, might perhaps be used instead,’ says Professor Hardie.

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