Abstract

Platelets have been hypothesized to promote certain neoplastic malignancies; however, antiplatelet drugs are still not part of routine pharmacological cancer prevention and treatment protocols. Paracrine interactions between platelets and cancer cells have been implicated in potentiating the dissemination, survival within the circulation, and extravasation of cancer cells at distant sites of metastasis. Signals from platelets have also been suggested to confer epigenetic alterations, including upregulating oncoproteins in circulating tumor cells, and secretion of potent growth factors may play roles in promoting mitogenesis, angiogenesis, and metastatic outgrowth. Thrombocytosis remains a marker of poor prognosis in patients with solid tumors. Experimental data suggest that lowering of platelet count may reduce tumor growth and metastasis. On the basis of the mechanisms by which platelets could contribute to cancer growth and metastasis, it is conceivable that drugs reducing platelet count or platelet activation might attenuate cancer progression and improve outcomes. We will review select pharmacological approaches that inhibit platelets and may affect cancer development and propagation. We begin by presenting an overview of clinical cancer prevention and outcome studies with low-dose aspirin. We then review current nonclinical development of drugs targeted to platelet binding, activation, and count as potential mitigating agents in cancer.

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