Skip to main content
Accessibility|Contact|Privacy|Terms of Service

Could the Humble Aspirin be the Cure for Colon Cancer

  • Published: 2014-11-06 : Author: University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences : Contact: Allison Hydzik - hydzikam@upmc.edu
  • Synopsis: Understanding why NSAIDs, such as aspirin and ibuprofen, lowers risk of developing intestinal polyps, which can turn into colon cancer.

Main Document

"We want to use our new understanding of this mechanism as a starting point to design better drugs and effective cancer prevention strategies for those at high risk of colon cancer."

Aspirin and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs protect against the development of colorectal cancer by inducing cell suicide pathways in intestinal stem cells that carry a certain mutated and dysfunctional gene, according to a new study led by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute (UPCI) and the School of Medicine. The findings were published online today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences .

Scientists have long known from animal studies and clinical trials that use of NSAIDs, such as aspirin and ibuprofen, lowers the risk of developing intestinal polyps, which can transform into colon cancer. But they have not known why, said senior investigator Lin Zhang, Ph.D., associate professor, Department of Pharmacology and Chemical Biology, Pitt School of Medicine, and UPCI, a partner with UPMC Cancer-Center.

"Our study identifies a biochemical mechanism that could explain how this preventive effect occurs," he said. "These findings could help us design new drugs to prevent colorectal cancer, which is the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the country."

The research team performed experiments in animal models and examined tumor samples from patients who had taken NSAIDs and those who hadn't.

They found that NSAIDs activate the so-called death receptor pathway, which selectively triggers a suicide program in intestinal stem cells that have a mutation in the APC gene that renders the cells dysfunctional. Healthy cells lack the mutation, so NSAIDs cause them no harm. In that manner, the drugs instigate the early auto-destruction of cells that could lead to precancerous polyps and tumors.

"We want to use our new understanding of this mechanism as a starting point to design better drugs and effective cancer prevention strategies for those at high risk of colon cancer," Dr. Zhang said. "Ideally, we could harness the tumor-killing traits of NSAIDs and avoid possible side effects that can occur with their chronic use, such as gastrointestinal bleeding and ulcers."

The research team included lead author Brian Leibowitz, Ph.D., and Jian Yu, Ph.D., of UPCI and the Pitt's Department of Pathology, as well as others from UPCI and Pitt School of Medicine; Sichuan University, China; INCELL Corp, San Antonio, Texas; and Indiana University School of Medicine. The project was funded by National Institutes of Health grants CA106348, CA121105, CA172136, CA129829 and DK085570, and the American Cancer Society.

Similar Topics

1 : Colorectal Cancer Screening Rates Remain Low for Adults with Disabilities : University of Missouri-Columbia.
2 : Female Colorectal Cancer: Symptoms, Pregnancy Risks and Treatments : Thomas C. Weiss.
3 : Could the Humble Aspirin be the Cure for Colon Cancer : University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences.
4 : Breakthrough in Bowel Cancer Treatment : Queen's University Belfast.
5 : Colonoscopy Recommendations for 1 to 2 Polyps Consistent with Guidelines : American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy.
From our Colorectal section - Full List (22 Items)


Submit disability news, coming events, as well as assistive technology product news and reviews.


Loan Information for low income singles, families, seniors and disabled. Includes home, vehicle and personal loans.


Famous People with Disabilities - Well known people with disabilities and conditions who contributed to society.


List of awareness ribbon colors and their meaning. Also see our calendar of awareness dates.


Blood Pressure Chart - What should your blood pressure be, and information on blood group types/compatibility.





1 : Autism Prevalence Increases to 1 in 59 US Children
2 : Yelp Reviews of Nursing Homes Tend to Focus on Staff Attitudes and Responsiveness
3 : Non-Invasive Spinal Stimulation Enables Paralyzed People to Regain Use of Hands
4 : What if You Could Know Your Mild Cognitive Impairment Would Not Progress?
5 : Millennials Fail to Understand Dangers of Tanning
6 : Appetite Loss After Exercising Explained
7 : Bias Keeps Women with Higher Body Weight Away From the Doctor
8 : Smart Hoteliers are Building a Healthier Future


Disclaimer: This site does not employ and is not overseen by medical professionals. Content on Disabled World is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of a physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. See our Terms of Service for more information.

Reporting Errors: Disabled World is an independent website, your assistance in reporting outdated or inaccurate information is appreciated. If you find an error please let us know.

© 2004 - 2018 Disabled World™