Women who take a daily baby aspirin may be able to lower their breast cancer risk, according to a new study that reinforces a growing body of research showing the age-old pain remedy has potent anti-cancer properties.
Researchers from the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Kansas City, Mo., and the University of Kansas Medical Center found regular use of low-dose aspirin appears to prevent the progression of breast cancer — slowing the growth and spread of tumors in laboratory studies and experiments involving mice.
The study — presented by VA Medical Center cancer researcher Gargi Maity at a meeting of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology in Boston this week — found that aspirin interferes with cancer cells' ability to become aggressive and spread. In the mouse study, for instance, the researchers found tumors treated with aspirin formed no or only partial stem cells, which fuel the growth and spread of the disease.
Aspirin — acetylsalicylic acid — has been found in numerous studies to prevent and treat a wide variety of cancers, including colorectal, esophageal, and prostate cancers. Past research has suggested breast cancer was less likely to return in women who took aspirin to lower their risk of heart attack or stroke, but precisely how and why has not been explained.
The VA study found that, in lab tests, aspirin blocked the proliferation of two different breast cancer lines, including a difficult-to-treat form known as “triple-negative breast cancer.” Aspirin also boosted the effectiveness of tamoxifen, the usual drug therapy for so-called “hormone-receptor positive breast cancer.”
"We are mainly interested in triple negative breast cancer, because the prognosis is very poor," said co-researcher Sushanta Banerjee, a professor at the University of Kansas Medical Center.
Aspirin can have negative side effects, including gastrointestinal bleeding. But the new research suggests the long-used headache remedy could become a promising new weapon in treating and preventing breast cancer.
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