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Pain Killer Kills Cancer? Anti-Inflammatory Drug Sulindac Makes Tumor Cells Commit Suicide, Study Says

Cancer cells. (AP/CBS) AP/CBS

NEW YORK (CBS) Can certain painkillers cause cancer cells to commit suicide?

That's the suggestion of a new study of a popular anti-inflammatory drug known as sulindac, published June 15 in the journal Cancer Cell. The drug is marketing as Clinoril.

Scientists have long known that cancer is less common in people who take aspirin and other nonsteriodal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID), according to a statement issued by Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute in La Jolla, Calif., where the study was conducted.

The study offers an explanation of why this happens.

It showed that sulindac - which is commonly prescribed to treat pain and fever and to ease arthritis symptoms - triggers cell death by binding to a protein called RXR-alpha that travels into the nucleus and signals genes to turn on or off.

In essence, the cells kill themselves, according to the report.

"Sulindac has a very strong impact on cancer activity," said Xiao-kun Zhang, Ph.D., a professor at Sanford-Burnham and senior author of the study. He said NSAIDs have shown to inhibit the growth of many kinds of cancer, including colon, breast, prostate, and lung. "Our study might help drug makers develop new drugs with anticancer activity."

NSAIDs have gotten a lot of bad press for causing potentially dangerous cardiovascular side effects. To overcome this limitation, the researchers created a new version of sulindac - called K-80003 - that helps diminish side effects, according to the statement.

Read the full study at Cancer Cell

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