Dr. Chan studies the prevention of colorectal adenoma and cancer using chemopreventative drugs and lifestyle interventions and focuses on genetic and biochemical markers that may be used to stratify risk of colorectal cancer for individuals, as well as predict responsiveness to various treatments.

Aspirin, the Gut Microbiome and the Prevention of Colorectal Cancer

Andrew Chan, MD, MPH
Andrew Chan, MD, MPH
Stuart and Suzanne Steele MGH Research Scholar 2017-2022
Chief, Clinical and Translational Epidemiology Unit, Massachusetts General Hospital
Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School

Colorectal cancer (CRC) is the third-most common cancer and cause of cancer-related death in the U.S.

Substantial prospective and clinical trial evidence has demonstrated that aspirin can help to reduce the risk of new cancerous growth in the colon and is associated with lower risk of death from CRC, as well as other cancers.

Thus, aspirin represents the most promising available treatment to prevent certain cancers from developing. However, we need a better understanding of the mechanisms that contribute to this protective effect.

In parallel, increasing evidence has linked changes in the gut microbiome –the community of bacterial organisms in the digestive tract—to both chronic inflammation and the risk of CRC. The pathways that link aspirin use with prevention of colorectal cancer may also be impacted by changes in the microbiome.

In the coming years, we will investigate how aspirin use increases gut bacterial diversity and microbial genomic richness, and how this effect helps to suppress the risk of developing colorectal cancer.

This could provide compelling evidence of the protective properties of aspirin and strengthen the microbiome-CRC relationship. These studies may also lead to new approaches for preventing CRC that are based on the individual composition of an individual's microbiome.