Researchers develop new approach to bowel cancer treatment

Researchers at the University of Wolverhampton are developing drugs similar to aspirin to help in the fight against bowel cancer.

In the past 30 years or so, there has been a growing body of evidence to suggest that small doses of aspirin taken regularly over long periods can dramatically reduce the incidence of bowel cancer.

Some people with a clear family history of bowel cancer are advised to consider adding low doses of aspirin to their routine, but it hasn’t been recommended for everyone to do this. This is because regular use of aspirin brings with it side effect risks of ulcers and gastrointestinal bleeds and very rarely is a contributory factor to strokes.

Researchers at the University of Wolverhampton’s Research Institute in Healthcare Science have been wrestling with this problem, and for the past five years have been looking for other compounds similar to aspirin, or ‘aspirin analogues’, that could bring the benefits with reduced side-effects.

Dr Iain Nicholl and Dr Chris Perry presented their work on ‘di-aspirin’ at the National Cancer Research Institute Conference in Liverpool last year.

Dr Nicholl, Senior Lecturer in Biomedical Science, said: “We’ve tried to understand more about the precise role of aspirin in the protection against bowel cancer, and some interesting patterns are beginning to emerge.

“Experiments with cancer cells grown under laboratory conditions have confirmed that aspirin causes cell death in certain types of bowel cancer tumours, but that other molecules related to aspirin, of which about 30 have now been made, can be much more effective at killing the cancerous cells.”

Dr Perry, Senior Lecturer in Medicinal Chemistry, added: “The good news seems to be that whilst effective against colo-rectal cancer cells, the drugs developed so far are not seriously toxic to normal cells and even most other types of cancer. The hope is that this will translate into reduced side effects of taking the drugs.”

The University has filed a patent for the drugs, and is now looking for partners with whom to collaborate and scale up further development.

Approximately 14,000 people in England and Wales die of colo-rectal cancer (bowel cancer) each year, which represents around 15% of all deaths from cancer in these countries.

ENDS

A paper on the findings, titled ‘Activity of aspirin analogues and vanillin in a human colorectal cancer cell line’ was published in Oncology Reports Vol 26: 557-565, 2011. A copy of the paper and also a presentation poster from the National Cancer Research Institute conference are available on request.

For media inquiries please contact Vickie Warren in the Media Relations Office on 01902 322736

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