Before there was “ER,” “Grey’s Anatomy” and other shows focusing on the melodramas in a hospital, we had all-knowing TV physicians who seemed to cure every ailment with one prescription:
“Take two of these and call me in the morning.”
Shiuan Chen (Photo by Walter Urie)
Turns out that might be good medicine when it comes to aspirin. City of Hope researchers, led by Shiuan Chen, Ph.D., director of the Division of Tumor Cell Biology, are investigating the role this common pain reliever may play in breast cancer prevention. Add that to the other benefits scientists worldwide are studying — preventing heart disease, asthma, blood clots, liver damage and more — and the simple pill might be uncommonly powerful.
City of Hope’s study team aims to confirm that aspirin can suppress the expression of aromatase, an enzyme in the body that helps create estrogen. Since most breast cancers need estrogen to grow, blocking aromatase has proven to be a powerful way to treat breast cancer. In other studies, Chen has demonstrated how mushrooms, pomegranates and grape seed extract are “super foods” that seem to have a natural ability to block aromatase.
Using the California Teachers Study, an ongoing study tracking the health of more than 133,000 women, the team also will look at how use of aspirin and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs affect women’s breast cancer risk and survival.
If researchers confirm that aspirin prevents breast cancer and reduces the disease’s ability to progress in women who already have it, they will have identified an inexpensive, accessible method to reduce breast cancer risk.
Chen and his colleagues believe that such a discovery could provide particular benefits to women from underserved populations.