Giving cheap aspirin to cancer patients along with immunotherapy could help turbo-charge the effectiveness of the treatment, says a new study. Scientists have found aspirin or other COX inhibitors to be more effective in slowing bowel, breast and melanoma skin cancer growth in mice as compared to immunotherapy alone.
Though immunotherapy promises to change the face of cancer care by offering longer-lasting solutions with fewer adverse side-effects vis-a-vis conventional treatment, new drugs do not always work well.
The findings of the study which have been published in the journal Cell explain that aspirin stops the production of prostaglandin E2 (PGE2) cells which are produced in huge quantities in breast, bowel and skin cancer patients.
Aspirin and other COX inhibitors stop the production of PGE2 and revive the immune system of the body, said the researchers.
“We have added to the growing evidence that some cancers produce PGE2 as a way of escaping the immune system. If you can take away cancer cells’ ability to make PGE2 you effectively lift this protective barrier and unleash the full power of the immune system,” said study author Caetano Reis e Sousa from Francis Crick Institute in London.
Discovered by a Bayer (Germany) based scientist more than a century ago, aspirin is already put to use for preventing heart attacks. Previous studies have also hinted at the ‘wonder drug’ being effective in reducing the risk of bowel and other cancers.
Though the results on mice have been encouraging, performing similar tests on human beings and analysing their results could take some time.
“Giving patients COX inhibitors like aspirin at the same time as immunotherapy could potentially make a huge difference to the benefit they get from treatment. It’s still early work but this could help make cancer immunotherapy even more effective, delivering life-changing results for patients,” he said.