Researchers across the UK are examining whether aspirin could help cancer patients avoid permanent hearing loss − a side effect of a widely-used chemotherapy drug.
Cisplatin is given to about 18,500 people with cancer each year, and around one in two of them experience permanent hearing loss as a result.
This can range from milder forms such as tinnitus to deafness in one or both ears.
Scientists are now looking for around 88 cancer patients at hospitals in Leeds, Cardiff, London, Glasgow and other parts of the country who have been given cisplatin and are willing to take part in the so-called Cisplatin Ototoxicity Attenuated By Aspirin Trial (COAST).
The participants will be divided into two groups, with half of the patients receiving high-dose aspirin along with their standard cisplatin treatment four times a day, and the other half receiving placebos.
All will undergo a hearing assessment at the start of the trial, a week afterwards and again three months later.
Professor Emma King, a surgeon at the University of Southampton, warned that aspirin is not suitable for all cancer patients as it can have serious side effects such as internal bleeding.
She explained that participants will be given specially-coated aspirin tablets which only dissolve once they reach the small intestine, and will also be provided with another drug that reduces digestive juices, in a bid to prevent stomach bleeds.
If successful, COAST could be followed up with another phase which might eventually lead to aspirin being routinely given to thousands of people who are taking cisplatin as part of their treatment, Professor King added.