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    Nitroaspirin: A Powerful Variation On An Old Theme

    Basil Rigas, M.D. Sc.D., is a Professor of Medicine and Pharmacological Sciences.’ He is also Chief of the Division of Cancer Prevention.’ Dr. Rigas’ work focuses on the pharmacological prevention of cancers of the colon and the pancreas. His group has made significant contributions to our understanding of how aspirin and aspirin-like drugs prevent colon and other cancers. Dr. Rigas is currently developing the highly promising nitroaspirin for the prevention of colon and pancreatic cancer.

    Statesman:

    Colon cancer is the second most common cause of cancer deaths in Americans, claiming more that 56, 000 lives each year. But, if the disease is discovered early, it is a curable form of cancer in many patients. When should patients begin taking Nitroaspirin?

    Dr. Rigas:

    Nitroaspirin investigation-developments have not reached the stage suitable for patients outside a clinical trial.

    If our clinical trial is positive, other investigators, in addition to us, will have to expand this study and evaluate to determine the ultimate dose and the duration of treatment. After a lengthy and detailed process, and provided FDA approval, it will be used by those who are at risk of developing colon cancer.

    Subjects at risk’ for colon cancer include those with a family history polyps (benign lesions) colon cancer (that has already been treated but with a high risk of reoccurrence).

    Statesman:

    Does the nitroaspirin affect other parts of the body?

    Dr. Rigas:

    All evidence so far indicates that nitroaspirin is a highly safe medication. However, I wish to stress that the safety of this new drug is not fully evaluated. Treatment of more patients, and for longer periods of time, will be required for a definitive assessment.

    Statesman:

    How exactly is nitroaspirin related to cell death and cell renewal?

    Dr. Rigas:

    In simple terms, cancer represents the accumulation of a mass of cells where they are not supposed to be. To eliminate them, a drug has to either lower their rate of renewal or increase the rate of death or both. Our findings to date indicate that nitro-aspirin does both in an effective and mostly novel way.

    Statesman:

    How long have you been researching this topic?

    Dr. Rigas:

    I have been working on conventional aspirin and its affect on cancer since 1990 and on nitroaspirin (which can be viewed as a much improved version of the conventional variety) since 2000.

    Statesman:

    How does nitroaspirin affect other forms of cancer?

    Dr. Rigas:

    We have evidence that it should be effective against pancreatic cancer (it has prevented 90 percent in an animal model, which is by far the best result obtained within any agent so far), prostate cancer, breast cancer, and others. It looks, however, that it has minimal or no effect against lung cancer.

    Statesman:

    How does nitroaspirin inhibit cancer growth?

    Dr. Rigas:

    This is a rather complicated question and we have devoted substantial effort. It seems that nitroaspirin changes the signaling pathways inside the cell in a way that promotes the rapid death of the cancer cell while sparing normal cells. The latter seems to account for its safety.

    Statesman:

    What are traditional NSAIDS?

    Dr. Rigas:

    Conventional NSAIDS include about 50 compounds whose cell function is to inhibit inflammation. The prototype is aspirin, which is over 100 years old, and probably the most popular drug in the world. As you know, aspirin is derived from a compound found in the bark of willow trees. Known to many ancient civilizations, it was ‘rediscovered’ by a British clerk about 200 years ago.

    Statesman:

    How can people participate in the Nitroaspirin clinical trial?

    Dr. Rigas:

    Subjects who are interested in participating in our clinical trial should contact Ms. Margaret Melendez, our study coordinator at (631) 444-7623. The trial lasts 6 months, it is free of charge, and subjects receive an honorarium of $1,500 to cover their expenses.

    Statesman:

    Can undergraduates participate?

    Dr. Rigas:

    Yes, of course. We take one or two undergradraduates who do experiments in the laboratory and we may take one who wishes’ in running the clinical trial.

    Statesman:

    How do you feel about being both a physician and a scientist?

    Dr. Rigas:

    It is very rewarding, and that it allows me to function at the interface between clinical medicine and basic science; something that facilitates patient-related progress such as the prevention of cancer. On the other hand, it is fairly demanding, especially in regards to demands on my time. Nevertheless, it is a career that I recommend to those of your colleagues who want to work in the biomedical sciences.

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