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Aspirin May Be Able to Combat Spread of Breast Cancer

Update Date: Apr 22, 2013 02:27 PM EDT

Aspirin is typically used to combat headaches. However, research has found that the pill is able to hold preventative effects for a number of illnesses and conditions, including heart disease and anxiety about death. Now, a recent study has found that aspirin may be able to prevent the spread of two forms of breast cancer. The tablet may be able to hold hope even for men and women with one of the most grim forms of the disease.

Anecdotal evidence found that women who took aspirin in order to prevent heart disease or stroke were less likely to see their breast cancer return. However, researchers had not been able to identify the link between the drug and the disease. Researchers from the University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City believed that they have cracked the code.

The researchers administered aspirin to mice with models of breast cancer. They found that the painkiller was able to inhibit the growth of the tumors. The researchers also noted that the drugs were able to prevent the spread of the disease. It was also able to amplify the effects of tamoxifen, a drug given to patients with hormone receptor-positive breast cancer.

First-line chemotherapy treatments are unable to destroy stem cells. As a result, the cancer is still dangerous and, after a respite, the tumor will grow once more. "If you don't target the stemness [stem cells], it is known you will not get any effect," senior author Sushanta Banjatee said in a statement. "It will relapse."

Researchers believe that aspirin is able to combat the spread of the disease by blocking the cells' ability to become more aggressive and primordial. In the mouse models, tumors that were treated with aspirin were no longer able to form stem cells, or were able to create only partial stem cells. Without stem cells, the cancer cells are not able to grow or spread.

In addition to hormone receptor-positive breast cancer, the drug was also successful against triple-negative breast cancer, which is rarer but also has a grim prognosis.

Because aspirin does come with side effects, like gastrointestinal bleeding, researchers will continue studying it in order to identify whether the benefits outweigh the risks.

The study was presented at the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology's annual meeting in Boston.

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