Gastrointestinal cancer

Aspirin doubles survival rates!

Biology Current Events

Enteric coated aspirin. Image: Ragesoss

9/28/2015 — One little pill helps prevent stroke, eases the aches of arthritis and banishes headaches. And now, a new study shows that the humble aspirin tablet also improves survival rates in patients with cancerous tumors of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, that is, cancer of the stomach and/or intestines.

Led by Leiden University Medical Center’s Martine Frouws, the study from the Netherlands analyzed data from almost 14,000 patients who had been treated for a GI cancer between 1998 and 2011. The study team found an increase in survival rates for patients who took aspirin compared to those who didn’t.

Some 28 percent of patients survived at least five years after diagnosis. Those who took aspirin after diagnosis realized a chance of survival twice as high as those who didn’t take aspirin, even after considering other factors such as gender, age and stage of the cancer.

The research team is currently staging a Netherlands-based trial — random, multicenter and with placebos — to investigate the effect on the survival of elderly people with colon cancer who take 80 mg of aspirin daily. The team later wants to expand the trial to include other sites in the GI tract.

Why aspirin?

Aspirin has an anti-platelet effect, and therein lies its benefit, researchers believe. Platelets, you may remember, are parts of the blood that glop together and clog injured blood vessels to stop bleeding. Circulating tumor cells, people think, hide from the immune system by clothing themselves in platelets. Aspirin lets the immune system recognize these circulating cells and eliminate them because it constrains platelet function.

A long history

These findings demonstrating the beneficial effects of aspirin on gastrointestinal cancer are, of course, only the latest discovery relating to the "wonder drug." The action of salicylic acid, the active ingredient in aspirin, has been known since ancient times. Even then, plant extracts, particularly from willow and spiraea, were used to help people with headaches, pains and fevers. Thus, Hippocrates, the father of medicine (c. 460 – 377 BCE), described the use of a powder made from the bark and leaves of the willow tree and noted that it could help these symptoms.

More news >>

The study results were presented at the 18th congress of the European Cancer Organisation and the 40th congress of the European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO).

This story was based on information obtained from the AAAS. Source >>

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