VALHALLA, N.Y., April 25, 2002 – Research findings presented today at the International Symposium on Antimutagenesis and Anticarcinogenesis at New York Medical College suggest the pain reliever acetaminophen may prevent early biological changes that can lead to colon cancer in laboratory rats.
“In what is considered to be a building body of evidence, we observed that even low levels of acetaminophen showed a powerful protective effect in colon cells exposed to the carcinogen,” said lead researcher Gary M. Williams, M.D., professor of pathology at the College, who noted these findings support those of his earlier research on acetaminophen. Acetaminophen is the active ingredient in Tylenol® and other pain relievers.
“The fact that we found this protective effect even in animals exposed to much higher doses of the carcinogen than a human would ever encounter suggests that acetaminophen may have the potential to help prevent the onset of this disease in humans,” Dr. Williams said.
According to Dr. Williams and his colleagues, these findings applied to animals only, and more animal research is needed before humans can be studied in clinical trials. Therefore, they cautioned that as with any medication, people should read the acetaminophen label carefully and use the product only as directed.
In the controlled study by Dr. Williams, test animals were divided into treated animals and controls. Treated animals received acetaminophen prior to their exposure to varying doses of 3,2’-dimethyl-4-aminobiphenyl, a chemical agent linked to colon cancer. Control animals were exposed to the same doses of the carcinogen, or cancer-causing chemical, but were not pretreated at all.
Dr. Williams explained that in animals that were not pretreated with acetaminophen, cellular changes recognized as common precursors to colon cancer were present. In contrast, the animals that were treated with acetaminophen prior to exposure were significantly protected against the cellular effect of the chemical agent.
“In fact, we found that cellular changes indicative of colon cancer were either eliminated or reduced by half in animals pretreated with acetaminophen,” said Dr. Williams.
The research presented at the symposium was sponsored in part by an unrestricted grant from McNeil Consumer & Specialty Pharmaceuticals, makers of Tylenol®.
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