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Major UK trial to see if aspirin prevents cancer returning

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The largest ever clinical trial looking at whether taking aspirin every day stops some of the most common cancers coming back has been launched across the UK today.

The Add-Aspirin phase III trial aims to find out if taking aspirin every day for five years can stop or delay cancers that have been caught and treated at an early stage from returning.

“We hope this trial will give us a clear answer on whether or not the drug helps stop some cancers coming back”

Fiona Reddington

The trial, funded by Cancer Research UK and the National Institute for Health Research, will also study the drug mechanism involved.

The study will recruit 11,000 patients who have recently had, or are having, treatment for bowel, breast, oesophagus, prostate or stomach cancer.

It will be open at more than 100 centres across the UK and will run for up to 12 years, according to Cancer Research UK. 

The trial will compare two groups of patients taking different aspirin doses and a further group taking placebo.

The charity said previous research had suggested that aspirin could prevent some types of cancer.

Lead researchers Professor Ruth Langley, from the Medical Research Council’s clinical trials unit at University College London, said: “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,” she said. “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.”

Professor Tom Walley, director of the NIHR health technology assessment programme, said studies like the Add-Aspirin trial could “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, said: “Aspirin’s possible effects on cancer are fascinating.

“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,” he noted.

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