Aspirin hope for bowel cancer

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The Independent Online
Aspirin could have the potential to treat one of the most common cancers in westernised countries according to a leading cancer charity.

Laboratory tests carried out by the Cancer Research Campaign found that the household drug slowed down the growth of bowel cancer cells and caused some to self-destruct. Pre-cancer cells and cancerous cells were taken from the large bowel and cultivated in the laboratory. The results were published in the American-based journal Cancer Research yesterday. At present no human trials have been arranged.

"We already know that regular aspirin intake may reduce the risk of large bowel cancer by up to 50 per cent," said Professor Chris Paraskeva, who heads the CRC Colorectal Tumour Biology Research Group at the University of Bristol. "But the study now shows it might be possible to develop aspirin or aspirin-like compounds into anti-cancer drugs."

Cancer of the large bowel accounts for 19,000 deaths in the UK every year. It mainly affects people over 40 and the main form of treatment is presently surgery and occasionally chemotherapy.

The director general of the CRC, Professor Gordon McVie, said: "This is a significant step forward towards finding an eventual cure for cancer of the large bowel. It is also particularly important because there had been no significant fall in the death rate for patients with cancer of the large bowel for over 40 years."

Aspirin has already been proved to be efficacious for heart attack and stroke victims, improving survival rates by as much as a quarter. But doctors warn that healthy people should not take aspirin simply as a precautionary measure as there is the possibility of rare side effects such as internal bleeding.