The world’s largest clinical trial to investigate whether taking aspirin every day stops the recurrence of some of the most common cancers is to be funded by Cancer Research UK and the NHS.
About 11,000 patients from more than 100 centres across the UK will be recruited for the study. It will take up to 12 years and involve two groups taking different daily doses of aspirin, either 100mg or 300mg, and one taking dummy, or placebo, tablets.
Participants will recently have had, or will still be receiving, treatment for bowel, breast, oesophageal, prostate or stomach cancer.
The study will attempt to determine whether taking aspirin daily for five years can stop or delay the return of cancers that have been caught and treated early.
Aspirin has already been proved to help prevent heart attacks and strokes in some patients, and research has suggested it could do the same for some cancers.
Prof Ruth Langley, the chief investigator at the Medical Research Council’s clinical trials unit at University College London, said: “There has been some interesting research suggesting that aspirin could delay or stop early-stage cancers coming back, but there has been no randomised trial to give clear proof. This trial aims to answer this question once and for all.
“If we find that aspirin does stop these cancers returning, it could change future treatment – providing a cheap and simple way to help stop cancer coming back and helping more people survive.
“But, unless you are on the trial, it’s important not to start taking aspirin until we have the full results, as aspirin isn’t suitable for everyone, and it can have serious side-effects.”
Patients willing to volunteer for the trial should talk to their oncologist or research nurse.
Fiona Reddington, Cancer Research UK’s head of population research, said: “Aspirin’s possible effects on cancer are fascinating, and we hope this trial will give us a clear answer on whether or not the drug helps stop some cancers coming back.
“This 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.”
The trial is being funded by the NHS’s National Institute for Health Research. Prof Tom Walley, the head of its health technology assessment programme, said the trial “offers the exciting possibility of improved outcomes for patients with a simple, well-tolerated intervention”.
Those who want more information about the trial should call 0808 800 404 to speak to Cancer Research UK’s information nurses or visit www.cancerhelp.org.uk.
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