Non Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug Destroys Cancer

Kathleen Blanchard's picture

A non steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) has been shown to destroy cancer cells through a process that ultimately turns genes on and off. Researchers at Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute have discovered why individuals who take non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin have lower risks of certain types of cancer. For example, research has shown that aspirin can cut colon cancer risk.

The NSAID Sulindac was studied and found to inhibit tumor growth by shutting down a mechanism that makes cancer cells grow. The researchers found that the anti-inflammatory drug used to treat pain, fever and arthritis, binds to a protein, called RXRα that carries a signal to the nucleus of genes to turn them on or off. RXRα is a nuclear receptor that can either suppress or promote cancer growth.


According to Xiao-kun Zhang, Ph.D., professor at Sanford-Burnham and senior author of the study, "Nuclear receptors are excellent targets for drug development. Thirteen percent of existing drugs target nuclear receptors, even though the mechanism of action is not always clear." The new finding shows that the non steroidal anti-inflammatory drug can also help destroy cancer.

Normally the protein RXRα acts to stifle tumor growth. Some types of cancer produce a deviated form of RXRα that can promote cancer growth. The researchers found that the non steroidal anti-inflammatory drug Sulindac could eliminate the RXRα deviation, in turn destroying cancer.

Based on the findings the researchers have created a new version of the NSAID Sulindac minus the bad effects. The drug is now called K-80003. Dr. Zhang explains, "Depending on the conditions, the same protein, such as RXRα, can either kill cancer cells or promote their growth The addition of K-80003 shifts that balance by blocking survival pathways and sensitizing cancer cells to triggers of apoptosis” or cell death. Non steroidal anti-inflammatory medications can have negative consequences, but the researchers have taken the common anti-inflammatory and turned it into a drug that can destroy cancer.

Cancer Cell