Natural Salicylates and Cancer – Cancer RDG, Workshop and proposal development (Fellowship).

Lead Researcher
Professor Peter Elwood, Cochrane Institute of Primary Care & Public Health, Cardiff University

Funding is being sought for the following two research areas:

  1. To host an expert academic workshop to develop high quality collaborative proposal/s on the role of natural salicylates in the prevention of cancer (see appendix 1 Programme & Appendix 2 Invitees).  Followed by a Public Lecture by Professor Sir John Burn, Chair of the Workshop.  
  2. Pilot study using blood samples collected as part of the 30-year Caerphilly Cohort to examine salicylate levels and correlate these with information collected on diet and the development of cancer.

These research areas were inspired by the 2012 SURE workshop organised by Professor Clare Wilkinson and the team from the North Wales Centre for Primary Care Research.  The relevant sub-workshop facilitated by Robyn Davies, focused on cancer prevention, early diagnosis and survival/palliative care. These were outputs from the prevention group.

Cancer is the second most common cause of premature death and disability worldwide. About five million new cases are diagnosed annually in Europe and the USA alone.  Screening procedures and drug treatment have had some success in reducing mortality, but advances have been severely limited.  The substantial reductions in incidence by aspirin, and probably benefit in treatment, hold enormous promise.  However the side effects of aspirin, even at low dose, pose a serious limitation on the widespread use of aspirin.

The early part of the aspirin story is really the story of natural salicylates, and there is evidence of a substantial reduction in cancer in subjects with a high consumption of fruit and vegetables, the original source of the salicylate in aspirin.  The evidence on fruit and vegetables is however somewhat equivocal, with some studies failing to detect benefit.  It has been suggested, however, that as salicylates in plants are a response to stress [4], the produce sold in supermarkets, which has been grown under cosseted conditions, has very low, if any, salicylate content.  Thus, fruit and vegetables exposed to stress, such as those grown under organic conditions, have considerably higher salicylate content compared to those grown conventionally.

Research area 1: This will be developed through the expert academic meeting and workshop and on-going collaboration.

Update: The expert academic meeting and workshop was successfully held 4th February 2013. To read more about the event, and view presentations from the day, click here.

Research Area 2: In the 30-year Caerphilly Cohort study, blood samples were stored at every examination (estimated of 2,000 samples).  It may be possible to estimate the salicylate levels in these blood samples. The correlations between blood levels of salicylates and estimates of fruit and vegetable consumption recorded at the time the blood was taken could be examined.  From this, the predictive value of blood salicylate for the later development of cancer could then be examined.  If it were possible to do this for the Caerphilly cohort and some link was indicated, then it would be a highly persuasive pilot study, and the aim would be to repeat the study in collaboration with colleagues responsible for cohorts much larger than the Caerphilly cohort.

Total awarded