Mesothelioma is an aggressive, incurable form of cancer primarily caused by exposure to airborne asbestos fibers. Close to 3,000 Americans are diagnosed with the cancer each year, with veterans accounting for nearly 30 percent of all cases. Although there is no cure for mesothelioma, the symptoms can be treated with varying degrees of success through the use of surgical procedures, chemotherapy and radiation.
Rarely do mesothelioma sufferers hear “take two aspirin and call me in the morning” when fighting the rare cancer. But researchers at The City College of New York report they have developed a new hybrid aspirin that may become the latest potent cancer fighter. So taking an aspirin to treat mesothelioma might be common in the future, if the results of the study hold true.
In a study published in the journal ACS Medicinal Chemistry Letters, scientists report that they have developed a new aspirin compound that curbed the growth of 11 different types of human cancer cells in culture. Some of the cancers controlled in the lab included pancreatic, lung and leukemia.
“If what we have seen in animals can be translated to humans,” said Associate Professor Khosrow Kashfi, the principal investigator, “it [the aspirin] could be used in conjunction with other drugs to shrink tumors before chemotherapy or surgery.”
Chemotherapy, which is often the primary modality for treatment for mesothelioma patients, is notorious for its side effects, including low blood cell counts, thinning or brittle hair, loss of appetite and weight, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting. This new aspirin, however, has been found to be perhaps safer than the current off-the-shelf aspirin and could limit the dosage of chemotherapy needed for treatment.
“There’s a lot of data on aspirin showing that when taken on a regular basis, on average it reduces the risk of development of colon cancer by about 50% compared to nonusers,” said Kashfi.
However, the downside is that prolonged use of aspirin is associated with bleeding ulcers and other severe illnesses due to its toxicity.
Named the “NOSH” aspirin, the drug developed by the City College researchers is a combination of nitric oxide (NO), which helps protect the stomach lining, and hydrogen sulfide (H2S), which has been shown to enhance aspirin’s cancer-fighting ability.
“The key components of this new compound are that it is very, very potent and yet it has minimal toxicity to the cells,” said Kashfi.
The researchers found that the NOSH-aspirin treatment showed promise in shrinking tumors and slowing cancer growth. In fact, the compound shrank human colon cancer tumors by 85 percent in live animals without adverse effects.
The researchers admit the use of the NOSH-aspirin is still years away and it will need to undergo clinical trials and toxicity testing before approval.
For the 3,000 Americans diagnosed with mesothelioma each year, clinical trials are critical to offering the patients an opportunity to receive new, potentially more effective therapies. If this novel treatment continues to prove as successful on humans as on mice, it could be the breakthrough all mesothelioma sufferers and their physicians have been awaiting.