Aspirin May Enhance Immune Response Against Colorectal Cancer in New Analysis

(HealthDay News) — Aspirin may promote an immune response against cancer, with fewer nodal metastases and higher infiltration of tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes among aspirin users with colorectal cancer (CRC), according to a study published online April 22 in Cancer.

Ottavia De Simoni, M.D., from Veneto Institute of Oncology IOV‐IRCCS in Padova, Italy, and colleagues conducted a retrospective analysis of 238 patients with a diagnosis of CRC operated on from 2015 to 2019 (METACCRE cohort) to analyze the effect of aspirin on the tumor microenvironment, systemic immunity, and the healthy mucosa surrounding cancer. mRNA expression of immune surveillance‐related genes (PD‐L1CD80CD86HLA I, and HLA II) in CRC primary cells treated with aspirin was extracted; the experiment was repeated in cell lines. In a subgroup of patients, the mucosal immune microenvironment was analyzed with immunohistochemistry and flow cytometry.

Overall, 12 percent of the patients in the METACCRE cohort were aspirin users. The researchers found that aspirin users had nodal metastasis significantly less frequently and higher tumor-infiltrating lymphocyte infiltration. CD80 mRNA expression was increased following aspirin treatment in the CRC primary cells and selected cell lines. The ratio of CD8/CD3 and epithelial cells expressing CD80 was higher in aspirin users in the healthy mucosa surrounding rectal cancer.

“Our data suggested that aspirin use may be associated with a lower grading and nodal metastasis rate and a higher tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes infiltration in patients with CRC,” the authors write. “These results are more evident in the right colon where, realistically, the bioavailability of aspirin is higher.”

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How has aspirin been used in cancer treatment?

While not a first-line defense, aspirin has emerged as a surprising contender in the battle against cancer. Research suggests this common pain reliever might offer unique benefits when used alongside conventional treatments.

One key area of interest lies in aspirin’s ability to modulate inflammation. Chronic inflammation is now recognized as a significant player in cancer development and progression. By inhibiting the production of inflammatory molecules known as prostaglandins, aspirin disrupts this growth-promoting environment. Studies published in the journal Nature highlight this potential, suggesting that aspirin might impede the cancer cell’s ability to exploit inflammation for its own advantage.

Another aspect of aspirin’s influence on cancer involves its impact on blood clotting. Cancer cells, in their bid to spread throughout the body, often utilize platelets, the cell fragments responsible for clotting, as a shield. Aspirin’s well-known blood-thinning properties could potentially hinder this process, making it more difficult for cancer cells to establish themselves in new locations. Research published by the Royal Society explores this concept, proposing that aspirin may limit the metastatic potential of cancer cells.

Beyond these established treatments, aspirin might even have a role to play in DNA repair. Cancers often arise due to mutations in a cell’s genetic code. The body has natural repair mechanisms to counteract these errors, but sometimes these systems don’t work. Studies suggest that aspirin might enhance these DNA repair pathways, potentially helping to prevent the formation and progression of tumors.

While research is ongoing, its effectiveness as a standalone cancer treatment remains unproven. Current investigations focus on incorporating low-dose aspirin into treatment regimens for specific cancers. More research is needed to determine the optimal dosage, potential drug interactions, and the types of cancers that might benefit most from this approach.

Aspirin’s potential to influence inflammation, blood clotting, and even DNA repair makes it a subject of ongoing research in the fight against cancer. While it’s not a replacement for established treatments, its use alongside conventional therapies might offer additional benefits. As research progresses, aspirin’s role as a complementary tool in the fight against cancer may become clearer.

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