City of Hope scientist weighs in on aspirin's role in cancer prevention

October 5, 2018 | by Letisia Marquez

Victoria Seewaldt headshot Victoria Seewaldt, M.D.
The Journal of the American Medical Association Oncology invited City of Hope’s Victoria Seewaldt, M.D., to provide her expert commentary on two studies published today that provide key evidence supporting the ability of regular aspirin use to prevent ovarian cancer and hepatocellular cancer (HCC), a cancer that starts in the liver and is driven by the spread of hepatitis B and hepatitis C virus infection.
Seewaldt, the Ruth Ziegler Chair in Population Sciences, chair of the Department of Population Sciences and a leading expert on cancer prevention and detection, wrote in the JAMA Oncology editorial that the two studies “have the power to start to change clinical practice. However, there is still much to be learned about the mechanism underlying dose and direction of aspirin use.”
There is a great deal of evidence supporting the link between inflammation and cancer; likewise aspirin is known to reduce inflammation. Therefore, it is easy to assume that aspirin must prevent cancer by reducing inflammation.
But that was not the case for the two studies published today in JAMA Oncology, Seewaldt said. 
The first study found the risk of ovarian cancer diminished if women took regular use aspirin at 100 mg or lower doses. But that effect was associated with an anti-platelet and/or analgesic effect.
Another study found that the risk of developing HCC was reduced if a person took regular moderate-dose aspirin. That was also due to an anti-platelet and/or analgesic effect; neither was associated with an anti-inflammatory effect.
“Both ovarian cancer and HCC are deadly cancers in need of new prevention strategies,” Seewaldt wrote. “[These two studies] are a critical step in realizing a broader population-wide use of aspirin for cancer chemoprevention."
“To reach the full promise of aspirin’s ability to prevent cancer, there needs to be better understanding of dose, duration and mechanism,” Seewaldt said.   
Read Seewaldt’s editorial here.

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