Could common household drugs have anti-cancer properties?

For years doctors have observed the beneficial impact of Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs, such as Aspirin) on cancer without fully understanding the biological processes involved.

But scientists from the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre in Melbourne have just made a breakthrough that shows how lymphatic vessels respond to cancer – thus shedding light on the link between NSAIDs and the ability for tumours to spread in the body.

“We’ve known that tumours actively secrete a range of proteins and compounds called growth factors, to attract blood and lymphatic vessels from within their immediate vicinity, enabling them to flourish and metastasise, or spread,” explains Associate Professor Steven Stacker.

“We have discovered that a gene (pgdh) links these growth factors to the prostaglandin cellular pathway – the pathway that can cause inflammation and dilation of vessels throughout the body. Basically, the growth factors released by tumours also encourage nearby collecting lymphatic vessels to widen, increasing the capacity for these ‘supply lines’ to act as more effective conduits of cancer spread.”

This discovery will motivate research that targets the prostaglandin pathway to effectively tighten a tumour’s supply lines and restrict the transport of cancer cells to the rest of the body.

The Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre is one of the finest cancer research centres in Australia and we congratulate them on this significant research which has the potential to change the lives of cancer patients in the near future. ACRF has supported the Peter Mac Centre with two significant research grants in 2003 and 2008.