Aspirin may be able to boost the effectiveness of cancer medicines that improves the immune system. Immunotherapy lets the body's own defenses fight cancer. Scientists at the Francis Crick Institute have published a study suggesting aspirin may prevent tumors from hiding from the immune system. Cancer Research UK said it could be a simple way of improving treatment. The team showed that skin, breast and bowel cancer cells were producing high levels of a chemical, called prostaglandin E2, that could dampen down the immune response - effectively letting a tumor hide.
However, drugs like aspirin are able to change the chemical pathways inside the cancer cells that lead to prostaglandin E2 being produced. Experiments in mice, published in the journal Cell, suggest such drugs can boost immunotherapy treatment.
Prof Caetano Reis e Sousa: "We are very far off patients, all this is preclinical research in mouse models, what we would like to do now is set up a clinical trial to formally demonstrate this could happen in humans."
Immunotherapy is one of the most promising fields in cancer research, with some trials showing terminal cancers can be shrunk and even disappear completely in rare cases.
Prof Reis e Sousa added: "The findings are exciting in the context of renewed interest in immunotherapy, really everyone in oncology and immunology has become extremely excited. But what we're finding is not a revolution, it's an evolution [that could help us] try to achieve an even greater rate of remission."
There have been previous suggestions that aspirin can prevent cancers forming in the first place. Possible that aspirin was also preventing cancers forming by acting on the immune system, but that was still untested.
Findings are exciting in that they could offer a simple way to dramatically improve the response to treatment in a range of cancers.