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5 June 2018, 05:35
Edinburgh University scientists have shed new light on the way aspirin works to help stave off bowel cancer.
The over-the counter painkiller had been known to reduce the risk of developing colon cancer but the drug's tumour-fighting properties had not been well understood previously.
Scottish-based researchers have now found that the painkiller blocks a key process linked to tumour formation.
Researchers at the University of Edinburgh's Cancer Research UK centre focused on a structure found inside cells called the nucleolus.
Activation of the nucleolus is known to drive tumour formation and has also been linked to diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.
The team tested the effects of aspirin on cells grown in the lab and on tumour biopsies removed from colon cancer patients.
They found that aspirin blocks a molecule named TIF-IA, which is essential for the nucleolus to function.
According to the researchers, not all bowel cancer patients respond to aspirin, but they believe their findings could help to identify those who are most likely to benefit.
The study could also pave the way for the development of new therapies that mimic aspirin's effects.
Long-term use of aspirin itself is not recommended due to certain side-effects, the team said.
Dr Lesley Stark, from the centre, said: "We are really excited by these findings as they suggest a mechanism by which aspirin may act to prevent multiple diseases.
"A better understanding of how aspirin blocks TIF-IA and nucleolar activity provides great promise for the development of new treatments and targeted therapy."
The research, supported by a number of different organisations, is published in the journal Nucleic Acids Research.