Capsules Plus Aspirin
of Leeds Press Release
to University of Leeds Press Release
two simple pills help prevent bowel cancer?
Tuesday 21st September 10
Could daily doses of a fish oil extract
and aspirin help stop pre-cancerous growths from developing
in the bowel? Thats what a study led by the University
of Leeds hopes to find out.
Bowel cancer is the third most common
cancer worldwide, with over a million new patients being
diagnosed each year. In most cases, the cancer develops
from tiny, slow-growing nodules on the bowel wall, known
as polyps, which can be detected and removed during
a 'colonoscopy' camera examination. Doctors currently
remove all polyps that they see because they cannot
tell which ones will turn cancerous.
Like all invasive procedures, having
a colonoscopy carries a small risk of complications.
Although these complications are rare, cutting off polyps
can occasionally cause bleeding or even leave holes
in the bowel wall. Because of this, doctors want to
find drugs or dietary supplements that can shrink existing
nodules and prevent new ones from forming. If effective
'polyp prevention pills' could be found, then patients
at risk of developing these pre-cancerous bowel nodules
would need far fewer 'check-up' colonoscopies.
Previous studies have shown that a
substance found naturally in fish oil known as Eicosapentaenoic
acid (EPA) and aspirin can - each taken on their own
- provide some protection against bowel polyps. Taken
together, the protective effect may be even greater,
as researchers now intend to find out.
"A major advantage of EPA and
aspirin is that they are both safe, have few side effects
and they are already used widely by people who have
heart disease or who have had a stroke," said Professor
Mark Hull from the University of Leeds who is leading
the trial. "Other drugs that have been shown to
prevent bowel polyps have been linked to an increase
in heart attacks, so they are unsuitable for widespread
The researchers plan to recruit around
1000 people from the NHS Bowel Cancer Screening Programme
(BCSP) in England who have already had several polyps
removed. Around 25 to 30 hospitals will be involved.
Some members of the study group will
be given both EPA and aspirin. Others will be given
just one of the drugs on its own together with 'dummy'
capsules or tablets, whilst another group of people
will only be given the pretend tablets. None of the
people taking part in the study or the medical staff
will know who is getting the real drugs.
Follow-up camera tests will be used
to check how effective EPA and aspirin are at stopping
new polyps from forming. Other tests will be carried
out on blood, urine and tissue samples to learn more
about how both agents work.
"If this treatment is shown to
be safe and effective, then in future it could be given
to more patients who have been found to have these pre-cancerous
bowel polyps and are at risk of developing others in
the future," Professor Hull said.
"Our studies may also indicate
which patients the drugs are likely to work in best
- another step towards the current vision of personalised
The work is being financed by a research
grant awarded by the Efficacy and Mechanism Evaluation
(EME) programme, which is funded by the Medical Research
Council (MRC) and managed by the National Institute
for Health Research (NIHR).
Professor Hull and researchers from
the Universities of Leeds, Bradford and Nottingham,
and South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust and Gateshead
NHS Foundation Trust, will be working with doctors and
nurses from the BCSP. The trial is being managed by
the Clinical Trials Unit at the University of Nottingham.
Paula Gould, University of Leeds press office: Tel 0113
343 8059, email firstname.lastname@example.org
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