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A recent series of studies showed that people who take aspirin every day have a lower risk of cancer than those who don't take it. Now, a new study in Science attempts to explain the mechanisms behind this effect, reports New Scientist's Lisa Raffensperger. Researchers at the University of Dundee in the UK treated cultured human kidney cells with salicylate, aspirin's key ingredient, and found that the drug activated AMPK, which is involved in cell metabolism Raffensperger says. Their colleagues at McMaster University in Canada then tested high doses of salicylate on mice and found that those AMPK knockout mice did not receive the same benefits from the drug as the mice with AMPK. "The finding potentially separates aspirin's pain-relieving effects from its cancer protection, paving the way for new anti-cancer drugs that have fewer side-effects than aspirin," she adds. "The next step will be to test salicylate directly in mouse models of cancer, and to see whether AMPK remains important in mediating an anti-cancer effect."

The Scan

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