We have long used aspirin—more so in India, where self-medication is common—as the pill to pop for headaches, common cold and such ailments. In fact, with over a trillion tablets sold overall, it remains the largest-selling drug ever. Researchers have found other uses for the medicine, some have even recommended it as an anti-coagulant that could help in heart attacks. A recent analysis by IIT-Madras has discovered an entirely new use that could bolster sales of the compound across the world. According to a Times of India report, researchers at IIT-Madras have discovered how aspirin kills cancer cells. While the world has been celebrating the drug as a possible cancer-therapy candidate, no study had indicated so far how it acts against cancer cells. But the study, published in Scientific
Reports, found aspirin targets malignant cells with high levels of a particular protein, by not allowing them to break down energy and releasing toxins to kill them.
Although it would still take some years for scientists to verify these results and break the drug into attack-substrates targeting cancer, what it could possibly do in the future is bring down the cost of cancer treatment. More important, with another study by American Association of Cancer Research highlighting that aspirin may be able to reduce mortality rates and lower cancer-risks over the long-term, it can also double up as a preventive. With over 72% of cancer deaths occurring in low- and middle-income countries—as per the International Network for Cancer Treatment and Research—aspirin may prove the life-saver. But governments and doctors must ensure people do not give into misconception. Although aspirin may prove a viable solution against cancer and tumour, people can’t just pop pills, especially when deaths due to over-medication are becoming a serious concern. One evil cannot be traded for another.