Dr. Shengmin Sang

N.C. A&T SCIENTIST PATENTS ASPIRIN-BASED CANCER TREATMENT

A food scientist with North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University has been awarded a patent for a family of novel aspirin-derived compounds that could be useful in treating or preventing colon cancer, heart disease and other disorders. The patent could mean that more patients may one day be able to receive the benefits of aspirin without incurring adverse side effects.

Dr. Shengmin Sang, professor and lead scientist for functional foods, developed the new compounds at the university’s Center for Excellence in Post-Harvest Technologies at the North Carolina Research Campus in Kannapolis.

“We think this could be helpful in treating anything for which aspirin is recommended for treatment or prevention. We found it to be less toxic to the stomach than aspirin,” Sang said.

Tests on colon-cancer cell lines showed that the novel compounds, containing both aspirin and bioactive phytochemicals, were more effective at inducing cancer-cell death than any of the individual components used alone or physically mixed. Sang describes his findings in the study, “Novel Resveratrol-based Aspirin Prodrugs: Synthesis, Metabolism and Anticancer Activity,” which was recently published in the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry. Funding for this, and other studies that gave rise to the patent came from the National Institutes of Health and the North Carolina Biotechnology Center.

The patent is timely, coming just as the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force considers adding colon cancer to the list of diseases for which aspirin should be prescribed as a preventive treatment. The task force is highly influential in guiding what doctors tell their patients to do, and for many years its guidelines have suggested that doctors advise certain patients at risk for heart attacks or strokes to take low doses of aspirin, provided they are not at risk for stomach bleeding. In fact, aspirin’s therapeutic usefulness has been, and continues to be limited because of its harmful side effects, which include gastric irritation. That could change, if an industry partner decides to license and commercialize Sang’s treatment -- a process that would require many more years of research, development and clinical trials.

Sang also researches bioactive compounds in wheat bran, tea, oats, ginger and other foods that are helpful in preventing or treating chronic and inflammatory diseases such as cancer, diabetes and obesity.

The Center for Excellence in Post-Harvest Technologies at the North Carolina Research Campus in Kannapolis is administered by the School of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences at N.C. A&T. The university is an 1890 land-grant doctoral research institution dedicated to learning, discovery and community engagement.