UCL News


New trial to find out whether aspirin fights cancer

22 October 2015

A new trial launches today, which aims to answer once and for all whether or not a daily dose of aspirin can help prevent some cancers from coming back.

aspirin Some previous studies have suggested it might, but the evidence has not been conclusive. Doctors need clear proof that it is a safe and effective treatment before prescribing it for their patients.

Aspirin was developed as a painkiller, and it is also known to reduce the risk of strokes and heart attacks in some patients. Some researchers think it may also stop some cancers returning by making it more difficult for secondary cancers to develop and spread.

The trial, called Add-Aspirin, is being run by the MRC Clinical Trials Centre at UCL in collaboration with Cancer Research UK and the National Institute for Health Research.

Professor Ruth Langley, chief investigator from the MRC Clinical Trials Unit at UCL, 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. 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."

Add-Aspirin will involve 11,000 patients across the UK and India who are having, or have recently had, treatment for bowel, breast, oesophagus (food pipe), prostate or stomach cancer. They will be randomly allocated into three groups. One third will take a 300mg aspirin tablet per day, a third will take a lower dose of 100mg per day, and the others a placebo (dummy) tablet.

Over the course of the trial, neither the patients, nor the teams of healthcare professionals administering the aspirin and monitoring the patients will be aware of which treatment each patient is receiving. The patients' health will be closely monitored, including regular checks to see whether their cancer has returned. Medical professionals consider this type of trial, known as a double-blind randomised controlled trial (RCT), to be the best evidence in medicine, as it avoids unconscious biases or preconceptions by the participants or the medical staff treating them.

A statistical analysis of the data gathered in the trial will reveal whether or not the aspirin has any measurable effect on the chances of cancer returning and on how long individuals live following their cancer diagnosis.

Dr Alistair Ring, one of the lead investigators from the Royal Marsden NHS Trust, one of the hospitals taking part, said: "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."




  • Pills & Container (Courtesy of Steve Smith via Flickr)