Ancient Egyptians used the bark of the willow tree to soothe aches and pains. The main constituent of the bark was salicylic acid, which helped in bringing down body temperature and reducing inflammations. Aspirin came into being in the late 1980s, when Felix Hoffmann, a German chemist, used acetylsalicylic acid to relieve his father of rheumatism.
Aspirin, the common go-to drug, is used to treat everything from fevers and common colds to body aches and swelling. The everyday painkiller has proved effective in the prevention and treatment of strokes and heart attacks. Furthermore, recent studies on the effects of aspirin revealed its Anti-Cancer properties. Also, a daily dose of aspirin may be effective in the treatment of Cancer patients.
“Aspirin induces high levels of calcium ions in the mitochondria of the cancer cells which prevent them from breaking down food into energy. This, in turn, releases toxic substances that kill the cells,” says Amal Kanti Bera, Professor of Biotechnology, IIT Madras. “When we understand how a molecule works, the scope for new drug discovery widens,” adds researcher Debanjan Tewari.
In a recent study conducted in Holland, it was found that daily intake of aspirin could double the life expectancy of cancer patients suffering from gastrointestinal cancers such as oesophagus, stomach and colon cancers. Another study shows that regular intake of the painkiller results in lowered levels of metastasis—the spread of cancerous cells to other parts of the body—by 30-40 per cent.
Compared to the average expenses incurred in the treatment of cancer, the inexpensive aspirin, with its anti-cancer properties, can prove to be a milestone in humanity’s quest to conquer Cancer.
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