Researchers believe they have discovered how aspirin improves survival in patients diagnosed with colon cancer, the 2013 European Cancer Congress (ECC2013)  heard today (Monday).
Although previous research has shown that taking low dose aspirin after being diagnosed with colon cancer improves patient outcome, the reasons why this happens remain unknown. The new research has shown that aspirin improves outcome in patients whose tumour cells express a specific protein on their surface; the protein is known as Human Leukocyte Antigen class I (HLA class I), a cell-surface protein produced by a collection of genes involved in the functioning of the immune system.
The results mean that HLA class I could be used in the future to predict whether or not a patient would benefit from aspirin. The findings also suggest that aspirin's role in improved patient survival could be explained by the interaction of the body's immune system with the effect of aspirin on platelets (cell fragments in the blood that are involved in clotting).
Dr Marlies Reimers, MD, a PhD student, in the Department of Surgery, Leiden University Medical Center, The Netherlands, said: "We think that platelets are involved in cancer spreading to other parts of the body by shielding tumour cells in the bloodstream so that they cannot be recognised by the immune system and can finally colonise distant organs. Aspirin could help to 'unmask' those tumour cells by attacking platelet formation, so that the immune cells can detect and eliminate them."
Dr Reimers and her colleagues used tissue microarray technology  to investigate the pattern of protein expression in colon cancer patients whose aspirin use after cancer diagnosis was known and who were registered with the Eindhoven Cancer Registry between 1998 and 2007. They studied 999 colon cancers to look at HLA class I expression, and expression of the COX-2 enzyme. They also extracted DNA from 663 tumours to look f
|Contact: José Abad|
ECCO-the European CanCer Organisation