Ibuprofen inhibits growth of some cancers

2 October 2013

Long-term use of Ibuprofen could give protection against prostate cancer, some colon cancers and several other cancers, according to research at the University of Bath.

Ibuprofen, a member of the family of drugs known as NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), is one of the most commonly taken non-prescription drugs alongside paracetamol and aspirin.

Unlike many drugs ibuprofen can exist in two different forms, known as R- and S-. Only the S-form has anti-inflammatory properties whilst the R-form is inactive. However the body can convert R-ibuprofen into S-ibuprofen through a process known as chiral inversion – something scientists believe may have knock-on benefits in fighting cancer.

This is because the enzyme that performs chiral inversion, alpha-methylacyl-CoA racemase (AMACR), has increased levels in prostate cancer, some colon cancers and several other cancers. This latest research hypothesises that the body’s processing of the drug reduces the normal activity of this enzyme, which is important for the cancer growth, and so in turn affecting this enzyme could stop the cancer from developing.

Researcher Dr Matthew Lloyd said, “The chiral inversion behaviour of ibuprofen in humans has been known since at least the 1970s. However, it is not until now that the specific proteins that perform the various steps have been identified.

“This study focusses on the final enzyme that produces active ibuprofen, which fights cancer by targeting cyclooxygenase (COX) enzymes. It will also help us understand how ibuprofen fights cancer by targeting AMACR.”


Qu X et al. Hydrolysis of ibuprofenoyl-CoA and other 2-APA-CoA esters by human acyl-CoA thioesterases-1 and -2 and their possible role in the chiral inversion of profens. Biochemical Pharmacology. Available online 13 September 2013.







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