A pioneering clinical trial in the North East is looking at the benefits of aspirin to prevent bowel cancer in people at high risk of the illness.
The study is being run from Newcastle University’s Institute of Genetic Medicine and the trial has welcomed its first participants.
Experts aim to build on a previous study that found aspirin reduces the risk of colorectal cancer in people with the rare genetic condition, Lynch syndrome.
The new study will explore whether a small dose of aspirin is as effective as the bigger dose used in previous trials.
Prof John Burn, a geneticist who is renowned for his work in the importance of aspirin in reducing cancer, is leading the region’s study.
His colleague, Dr Gillian Borthwick, the study’s programme manager, said: “It’s extremely exciting in that aspirin has been around for many, many years and has shown to have an affect on colorectal cancer.
“It’s extremely important that people put themselves forward for the clinical trial as Lynch Syndrome is inherited and those taking part are helping both themselves and the future of their families.”
Lynch syndrome is a rare hereditary condition caused by a gene fault. The healthy form of this gene helps DNA to repair itself. But the faulty gene increases the risk of several bowel cancer as well as other different cancers, including womb cancer, ovarian cancer, stomach cancer, pancreatic cancer, bile duct cancer, and bladder cancer.
The clinical trial has welcomed its first participants thanks to Stand Up To cancer, a fundraising campaign between Cancer Research UK and Channel 4 that aims to make a stand against the illness by raising vital funds for life-saving research.
For the Cancer the Cancer Prevention Project 3, also known as CaPP3, 3,000 people who have Lynch syndrome will be invited to take part. On joining the study the recruits will be asked to provide a blood sample before receiving a supply of enteric coated aspirin tablets.
The coating is designed to hold the tablet together when in the stomach preventing any damage from the drug and preventing the stomach’s acid dissolving the tablet until it reaches the chosen site of the intestines.
The CaPP3 study will be recruited through the Regional Genetics Centres across the UK and it is hoped there will also be international centres including Finland, Denmark, Germany, Sweden, Israel and Australia, all coordinated by the team in Newcastle.
The first two recruits have now joined the trial, including Nick James a furniture designer from Gosforth, Newcastle.
Mr James discovered he carried the faulty gene after undergoing genetic testing following the death of his mum to cancer. She had initially been diagnosed with womb cancer and other family members have had colorectal cancer. These are two of the cancer types where the risk of them developing is increased with Lynch syndrome.
The 35-year-old has made a number of lifestyle choices to improve his overall health and volunteered to take part in the CaPP3 trial to see if aspirin could be used as a preventative cancer drug.
The father-of-two said: “I found out that I carried the gene a couple of years ago. It was scary and extremely daunting to find out that because of this I was at greater risk of cancer.
“Through my genetic counsellor at the Life Science Centre I was put in touch with Sir John Burn and I started to find out about the power of aspirin and how I could help the trial and potentially myself and future generations by taking part. Since then I’ve been working with John and the team waiting for the trial begin.
“Taking part in the CaPP3 trial is my chance to help advance cancer research and I hope other people in the same position as me consider joining. This trial could mean that no matter what the outcome of a genetic test we find something that will reduce the risk of developing cancer.”
Patients missing out on surgery
Around 75 lung cancer patients in the North East may be missing out on life-saving surgery each year, according to figures released by Cancer Research UK.
With the countdown to the General Election underway, the news comes as the charity launches a new campaign - ‘Cross Cancer Out’.
Playing on the idea of a ballot paper, it asks election candidates to back a raft of vital measures aimed at ensuring all cancer patients are diagnosed much earlier and have greater access to the best possible treatments.
Worryingly, figures for lung cancer in particular show that around 1,000 patients across England are not having operations despite their disease being diagnosed at an early stage, when surgery is more likely to be successful.
In the North East, around 2,100 people are diagnosed with non small-cell lung cancer every year and around 310 of them have major surgery.
Experts believe that surgery is responsible for around half of the cases where any cancer is cured. And although it is not always appropriate for every patient, it plays a significant role in improving lung cancer survival.