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Major study into aspirin's impact on cancer

27 October 2015 08:52

Aspirin has already been found to help prevent heart attacks

Aspirin has already been found to help prevent heart attacks

The largest ever clinical trial looking at whether taking a daily dose of aspirin can stop cancer returning has begun.

The study will recruit 11,000 patients from more than 100 centres across the UK.

It is scheduled to last for up to 12 years and will examine people who have recently had or are receiving treatment for bowel, breast, oesophagus, prostate or stomach cancer.

It will compare one group taking different daily doses of aspirin (100mg or 300mg) with one taking placebo, or dummy, tablets.

Randomised trial

Research has already shown that taking aspirin can help to prevent heart attacks and strokes in some people, and it is thought it could also prevent some common cancers.

The trial, funded by Cancer Research UK and the National Institute for Health Research, will try to determine whether taking aspirin every day for five years can stop or delay cancers that have been caught and treated early from returning.

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Hopes for study

Scientists from the Medical Research Council Clinical Trials Unit at University College London, which is overseeing the study, hope a randomised trial will give clear proof that aspirin really can delay or stop early-stage cancers from coming back.

Chief investigator Professor Ruth Langley says if it is found that aspirin does stop these cancers returning, it could change future treatment and provide a cheap and simple way to help more people survive.

However, she adds a note of caution, warning it is important that people do not start taking aspirin until the results of the study are known unless they are involved in the trial, as "aspirin isn't suitable for everyone, and it can have serious side-effects".

Cancer Research UK

Dr Fiona Reddington, Cancer Research UK's head of population research, also hopes the trial will give a clear indication of whether aspirin helps stop cancer coming back.

She says the drug's possible effects on cancer are "fascinating" and the trial is "especially exciting as cancers that recur are often harder to treat so finding a cheap and effective way to prevent this is potentially game-changing for patients".