Given to its ability to irreversibly acetylate the platelet cyclooxygenase-1 enzyme, acetylsalicylic acid (ASA) is successfully employed for the prevention of cardiovascular disease. Recently, an antitumoral effect of ASA in colorectal cancer has been increasingly documented. However, the molecular and metabolic mechanisms by which ASA exerts such effect is largely unknown. Using a new, untargeted liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry approach, we have analyzed urine samples from seven healthy participants that each ingested 100 mg of ASA once daily for 1 week.
Of the 2,007 features detected, 25 metabolites differing after ASA ingestion (nominal p < 0.05 and variable importance in projection (VIP) score > 1) were identified, and pathway analysis revealed low levels of glutamine and of metabolites involved in histidine and purine metabolisms. Likewise, consistent with an altered fatty acid β-oxidation process, a decrease in several short- and medium-chain acyl-carnitines was observed. An abnormal β-oxidation and a lower than normal glutamine availability suggests reduced synthesis of acetyl-Co-A, as they are events linked to one another and experimentally related to ASA antiproliferative effects.
While giving an example of how untargeted metabolomics allows us to explore new clinical applications of drugs, the present data provide a direction to be pursued to test the therapeutic effects of ASA (e.g. the antitumoral effect) beyond cardiovascular protection.