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Why ibuprofen may stop cancers from developing

Teresa Tanoos's picture
Research shows ibuprofen may help protect against cancer

The anti-inflammatory drug ibuprofen may stop certain cancers from developing, and now researchers have discovered why.

Ibuprofen is one of the most popular over-the-counter drugs, and evidence suggests that using it long-term could help to protect against numerous types of cancer, including prostate cancer and some colon cancers.

What makes ibuprofen different from many other drugs is that it can exist in two different forms, R-ibuprofen and S-ibuprofen, but only the S- form has anti-inflammatory properties, whereas the R-form is inactive.

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However the body can convert R-ibuprofen into S-ibuprofen through a process called chiral inversion, which may have cancer-fighting benefits because alpha-methylacyl-CoA racemase (AMACR), the enzyme that performs chiral inversion, has been shown to increase levels in prostate cancer, some colon cancers and several other types of cancer too.

And, now, researchers at the University of Bath have shown why ibuprofen might stop certain cancers from developing, based on the hypothesis that ibuprofen is processed by the body in such a way that the drug reduces the normal activity of the AMACR enzyme, which could result in stopping the cancer from developing.

"The chiral inversion behavior of ibuprofen in humans has been known since at least the 1970s. However, it is not until now that the specific proteins that perform the various steps have been identified,” said Dr. Matthew Lloyd, who was involved with the research.

“This study focuses on the final enzyme that produces active ibuprofen, which fights cancer by targeting cyclooxygenase (COX) enzymes,” he added. “It will also help us understand how ibuprofen fights cancer by targeting AMACR."

SOURCE: Biochemical Pharmacology, Hydrolysis of ibuprofenoyl-CoA and other 2-APA-CoA esters by human acyl-CoA thioesterases-1 and -2 and their possible role in the chiral inversion of profens, Available online September 13, 2013 (http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.bcp.2013.08.067).