Aspirin may humble emperor of maladies

An aspirin a day can more than keep heart attack away. If preliminary work done by some New York-based researchers - two of them of Indian origin - is an indicator, the humble aspirin may soon emerge as the best bet against 11 different cancers.

This designer or hybrid aspirin uses two gas molecules - namely nitric oxide and hydrogen sulphide - to do the trick, said the researchers in two journals. They wrote in the "ACS Medicinal Chemistry" on Friday that their aspirin could control cancers of the colon, pancreas, lung, prostate, breast, and blood (leukaemia) in mice. Their paper in another journal, "Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communication", said that their aspirin shrank human colon cancer tumours by 85 % in live animals.

Aspirin is among the world's most prescribed medicine, said Mumbai's senior cardiologist Dr A B Mehta.

"Aspirin is so important in cardiac care that patients who for some reason cannot tolerate aspirin are advised against undergoing angioplasty,'' he said. Aspirin's cancer link has often been discussed. Said Dr Urmilla Thatte, who heads KEM Hospital's pharmacology department, "There have been several trials on aspirin's anti-cancer properties. It's not a new premise, but there have never been confirmed benefits."

In 2010, Oxford University scientists reviewed studies and deduced that patients who took 75 mg of aspirin a day had 20% lower chances of being diagnosed and dying of cancer than those who didn't. But the jury is still out on cancer-aspirin link, said Thatte. Indeed, the team from City University of New York Medical School too has acknowledged that it remains to be seen if their animal results can be translated into humans.

Professor Khosrow Kashfi, whose research was done along with India-born researchers Dr Ravinder Kodela and Dr Mitali Chattopadhyay, however, said that if it worked the new aspirin could be used in conjunction with other drugs to shrink tumors before chemotherapy or surgery.

The use of aspirin is not without side-effects: internal bleeding and stomach ulcers are the most worrisome complications. But the New York researchers claim that their NOSH-aspirin (nitric oxide and hydrogen sulfide) could resolve this problem; patients would need smaller dosages and thereby prevent side-effects.

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