The world’s largest ever clinical trial has been launched across the UK today, to discover whether taking aspirin every day can stop some of the most common cancers returning.
The Phase III Add-Aspirin trial – the largest of its kind, funded by Cancer Research UK and the National Institute for Health Research – aims to find out if taking aspirin every day for five years can stop or delay cancers that have been caught and treated whilst at an early stage from returning. It will also study how the drug has its effects.
The study will recruit 11,000 patients who have recently had, or are currently having, treatment for bowel, breast, oesophagus, prostate or stomach cancer. It will run at more than 100 centres across the UK for up to 12 years. The study will compare two groups of people taking aspirin in 100mg or 300mg doses daily against a placebo control group.
While Aspirin has already been proven to help prevent heart attacks and strokes in some patients, research has suggested that it could also prevent the return of some forms of cancer.
Professor Ruth Langley, chief investigator from the MRC Clinical Trials Unit at University College London, says: “There’s been some interesting research suggesting that aspirin could delay or stop early stage cancers coming back, but there’s 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. Please speak to your oncologist or research nurse if you would like to join the Add-Aspirin trial.”
Professor Tom Walley, director of the NIHR Health Technology Assessment programme, says: “We have funded the Add-Aspirin trial because it offers the exciting possibility of improved outcomes for patients, with a simple well-tolerated intervention. The NIHR HTA programme prides itself on funding pragmatic clinical trials like this that can lead to tangible benefits to patients and could help fill important knowledge gaps for the NHS.”
Dr Fiona Reddington, Cancer Research UK’s head of population research, adds: “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.”
Aspirin was originally developed by Bayer and first marketed as such in 1899. It is one of the world’s most widely-used medications.