Monday, November 8, 2010

Pitt: Aspirin Can Kill Precancerous Colon Cells

Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh have discovered how drugs like aspirin and pain-killers can reduce the risk of colon cancer.

Lead researcher Lin Zhang says doctors have known for a while that non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs, can help in preventing tumors of the colon. But Zhang says until now, scientists didn’t know how they did it.

“Some of these anti-inflammatory drugs prevent colon cancer by killing so-called stem cells that accumulate genetic changes that predispose one to cancer,” says Zhang. “So, [this is a] major finding.”

Zhang says this information will be especially useful to people with a hereditary genetic defect called FAP. The defect causes patients to develop cysts on their colons, which can easily become cancerous.

While NSAIDs can reduce one’s risk of colon cancer by as much as 80%, they are not risk-free. Zhang says they’re also known for risks involving the heart. Zhang also notes at this point, NSAIDs can be used for prevention of cancer, but not treatment of tumors.

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