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Aspirin Derivative No Match for Mesothelioma


It may work wonders for aches and pains but apparently the ‘wonder drug’ is no match for the asbestos-linked cancer, malignant mesothelioma.

A number of previous studies have suggested a benefit from aspirin for some types of cancer. But Italian scientists testing the aspirin derivative [2-acetoxy-(2-propynyl) benzoate] hexacarbonyldicobalt (Co-ASS) and its analogue hexacarbonyl [μ-(2-ethylphenyl) methanol] dicobalt (Co-EPM) against malignant pleural mesothelioma cells found that both molecules function better as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) agents than as anti-tumor drugs.

The researchers tested Co-ASS and Co-EPM against mesothelioma cells of both the more common epithelioid and rarer sarcomatoid types. The most encouraging results were seen with the sarcomatoid cells. Against this cell type, Co-ASS was found to be more potent than either Co-EPM or the standard chemotherapy drug cisplatin. It induced cell death (apoptosis) among sarcomatoid cells by inhibiting NF-kB, a protein complex that effects the replication of DNA during cell division.

Unfortunately, neither Co-ASS nor Co-EPM had a significant effect on the growth of epithelioid mesothelioma cells, which account for most cases of mesothelioma. What both types of molecules did do was reduce the number of damaging reactive oxygen/nitrogen species within cells, which are overproduced in the body when inflammation is present.

Despite the reaction of Co-ASS against sarcomatoid mesothelioma, the results were not significant enough to be deemed promising for mesothelioma treatment. “In perspective, Co-Ass would be better considered as a CO-NSAID [a carbon monoxide-producing NSAID] agent than as an antitumor drug candidate,” the authors concluded.

Although the test did not find aspirin derivatives to be effective in the treatment of mesothelioma, it is still possible that aspirin or a similar molecule may play a role in prevention. According to the National Cancer Institute, numerous studies have found that NSAIDS like aspirin “may hold promise in helping to prevent cancer” by blocking the dangerous enzymes produced by chronic inflammation. Earlier this year, a study in the British Journal of Cancer found a link between long-term daily aspirin use and smaller colorectal and lung cancer tumors.

If you are interested in learning more about aspirin and mesothelioma or any other cancer, talk to your doctor.


Zanetto, I, et al, “The hexacarbonyldicobalt derivative of aspirin acts as a CO-releasing NSAID on malignant mesothelioma cells”, September 9, 2013, Metallomics, Epub ahead of print.
Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs and Cancer Prevention, National Cancer Institute website, Accessed 9/23/13.
Jonsson, F, et al, “Low-dose aspirin use and cancer characteristics: a population-based cohort study”, July 25, 2013, British Journal of Cancer.

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