After numerous reports that aspirin can protect against cancer, scientists are coming closer to finding out the reason why.
Salicylate is the compound that aspirin breaks down into after it’s ingested. Derived from plants such a willow bark, salicylate has been used as a drug for thousands of years- ancient Egyptian manuscripts describe it as a treatment for inflammation.
In its modified form of aspirin, salicylate remains a successful anti-inflammatory and analgesic. Recently, though, research has revealed that aspirin seems to lower a person's chances of developing some forms of cancer, particularly colorectal cancer and oesophageal cancer.
Scientists now believe that salicylate might give cancer protection without the dangerous side effects of aspirin, like the increased risk of stomach bleeding.
Professor Grahame Hardie from the University of Dundee applied salicylate to cultured human kidney cells. He found that the drug activated AMPK, an enzyme involved in cell growth and metabolism that has been found to play a role in cancer and diabetes.
From this, he concluded that it is salicylate and not aspirin that switches on the cancer-preventing enzyme. Professor Hardie said:
"This is an ancient herbal remedy which has probably always been part of the human diet. But despite that we're still finding out how it works."
A team at McMaster University in Canada followed up the research by testing high doses of salicylate on various types of mice. They found that it increased fat burning and reduced liver fat in obese mice with the AMPK enzyme, but not in those engineered to be without.
Scientists will next test salicylate directly in mouse models of cancer and see what role, if any, the AMPK enzyme has on its effectiveness.
This follows recent news that scientists are creating a ‘super aspirin’ compound that could shrink tumours and tackle 11 different forms of cancer.
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© ActiveQuote Ltd. 2012