aspirin and colorectal cancer

Recent research in Italy has suggested that aspirin could help prevent the spread of colorectal cancer. Nearly 43,000 people are diagnosed with this type of cancer in the UK each year according to figures released by Bowel Cancer UK.

Here, we’ll explore the latest findings into aspirin and discuss the potential implications for future treatments of colorectal cancer.

Research shows aspirin can reduce cancer spread

The recent study, carried out at the Chirurgia Generale Unit in Padova, Italy, involved 238 patients who were treated for colorectal cancer between 2015 and 2019. Among these, 31 patients were regular aspirin users, taking a daily dose of 100 mg.

Researchers analysed their clinical and pathological records, focusing primarily on a subset of these patients, known as the IMMUNOREACT1 cohort. These patients were treated with immunohistochemistry and flow cytometry to assess the immune response.

The findings were promising. Regular use of aspirin was linked to a reduction in nodal metastasis, which is the spread of cancer to lymph nodes, and an increase in tumour-infiltrating lymphocytes. These lymphocytes, including T and B cells, play a crucial role in recognising and destroying cancer cells.

In the IMMUNOREACT1 cohort, patients who took aspirin also displayed significantly higher levels of the protein CD80 in their rectal lining. CD80 is crucial for activating the body’s anticancer immune cells. This suggests that even in tissues less affected by aspirin, like the rectal lining, the drug can boost immune surveillance against cancer cells.

How does aspirin help in the fight against colorectal cancer?

Exactly how aspirin helps to stop the spread of cancer isn’t fully known. A nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug, it appears to modify the affected area in a way that increases the body’s ability to fight cancer.

It increases the presence of immune cells in the cancerous area and reduces the likelihood of the cancer spreading to nearby lymph nodes. This supports the notion that aspirin could be a valuable component in the treatment for colorectal cancer.

More targeted treatment for colorectal cancer

Despite these encouraging results, the effectiveness of aspirin in treating colorectal cancer could be significantly improved by changing how the drug is delivered to the affected areas. Currently, aspirin is absorbed through passive diffusion in the colon, which may not ensure adequate concentrations reach the most affected areas.

Developing targeted delivery methods could improve local concentrations of aspirin at the tumour site, potentially increasing its efficacy and reducing side effects. Such targeted approaches could revolutionise how we incorporate aspirin into colorectal cancer treatment plans, making it not only a preventive measure, but also a potent therapeutic tool.

Consultant Colorectal Surgeon Dr Jamie Murphy runs a specialist clinic where you can come to receive advice, diagnosis and treatment to improve your bowel health. Schedule a consultation by calling 020 3423 7054 or emailing jmurphymedsec@ccf.org to explore your options and ensure that your treatment plan is tailored to your specific needs.