Aspirin and the Risk of Colorectal Cancer in Relation to the Expression of 15-Hydroxyprostaglandin Dehydrogenase (HPGD)

Science Translational Medicine  23 Apr 2014:
Vol. 6, Issue 233, pp. 233re2
DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.3008481

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An Aspirin a Day May Keep Colon Cancer Away

Aspirin, the ubiquitous drug that people use for everything, ranging from fever and headache to prevention of heart disease and colon cancer, is not without its drawbacks. Especially at high doses, aspirin increases the risk of gastrointestinal problems, such as bleeding and ulcers, in addition to other side effects such as bruising. Thus, it would be nice to know which patients are most likely to derive a benefit from aspirin treatment, and to avoid exposing everyone else to unnecessary adverse effects.

Fink and coauthors analyzed two large studies totaling more than 100,000 participants and discovered that patients who used aspirin for colon cancer prevention were less likely to develop colon cancer with a high expression of 15-hydroxyprostaglandin dehydrogenase (15-PGDH). Conversely, colon cancers expressing low amounts of 15-PGDH were equally common in patients who used aspirin and those who didn’t.

The applicability of these results for preventative medicine will still need to be confirmed in prospective trials, to determine whether the concentration of 15-PGDH (determined in advance, perhaps during routine colonoscopy) can predict which patients would benefit from using aspirin to prevent colon cancer. The current paper lays the groundwork for such studies and provides hope that we may someday be able to maximize the benefits of aspirin and use it for targeted efforts at cancer prevention.