The NCRI Upper Gastrointestinal Group has published the following article outlining the Add-Asprin trial.

We all know aspirin as a painkiller and a drug used to prevent and treat heart attacks and strokes, but does it also have a part to play in the fight against cancer?  Some research has suggested that people who regularly take aspirin may be less likely to be diagnosed with cancer than those who don’t. In studies testing the beneficial effect of aspirin on heart disease, aspirin appeared to reduce the number of people who developed cancer and, in those that did develop cancer, it was less likely to spread. So researchers believe that, for people who have had treatment for some types of early stage cancer, aspirin may offer the hope of stopping the cancer from coming back. Importantly though, this idea still needs to be tested and proven. The best way to do this is with a clinical trial.

When oesophageal cancer is diagnosed at an early stage, it can normally be successfully treated with surgery and/or a combination of chemotherapy and radiotherapy. However, there is always a risk of the cancer returning. The Add-Aspirin clinical trial is for people who have had treatment for a range of common cancers, including oesophageal and stomach cancer, as well as breast, prostate and bowel cancer. The aim of the study is to test whether taking aspirin daily for 5 years after treatment for early stage cancer can stop or delay the cancer from coming back.

A clinical trial is the best way to answer this question because it will provide a fair test, and will look at both the benefits and the side-effects of taking aspirin in a large group of people who have had cancer. It is important to do this before aspirin can be recommended for people who have been treated for cancer previously. The study is testing two different doses of aspirin, so that we can learn more about how much aspirin may be needed to have an effect, if any, against cancer. Some people will receive one of the two aspirin doses to take every day, and others will receive a dummy drug (placebo) which looks the same as the aspirin tablet but does not contain any medicine. Participants will not know which tablets they have been given – this creates a fair test. Over a number of years, researchers will look at how often people’s cancer came back in the aspirin groups compared with the placebo group. They will also look at how well people took the tablets and how many people experienced side effects.

The study is currently recruiting participants in a large number of hospitals across the UK, as well as in the Republic of Ireland and India. More than 8000 people have joined the trial so far, and 11,000 are needed in total. Individuals interested in taking part in Add-Aspirin should speak to their doctor at the hospital where they are receiving their cancer treatment, who will be able to consider their suitability for the trial. You can also find out more about the study here:

If the trial is successful, this simple and cheap drug could offer hope to people across the world who have had treatment for oesophageal cancers.