Aspirin trialled as potential new treatment for aggressive type of breast cancer

Researchers hope the cheap and widely-used drug could help thousands of women with an aggressive form of breast cancer.

The commonly used drug could help women suffering an aggressive form of breast cancer.

The widely-available drug aspirin is being trialled as a potential new treatment for an aggressive form of breast cancer.

Researchers hope the drug may make hard-to-treat tumours more responsive in combination with immunotherapy for patients with triple negative breast cancer.

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At a glance: 5 key points

  • The trial is being funded by the Breast Cancer Now Catalyst Programme which aims to speed up progress in cancer research.
  • The trial marks the first clinical study to test whether aspirin can make tumours more sensitive to immunotherapy.
  • Led by Dr Anne Armstrong from the Christie NHS Foundation Trust in Manchester, the research will trial the drug avelumab both with and without aspirin before patients receive surgery and chemotherapy treatment.
  • Researchers say successful results could lead to further clinical trials of aspirin and avelumab for incurable secondary triple negative breast cancer, which occurs when cancer cells spread to other parts of the body. 
  • It’s a less common form of cancer, affecting around 8,000 British women every year, and disproportionately affects younger women and black women.

What’s been said

Dr Armstrong, a consultant medical oncologist and honorary senior lecturer at the Christie NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Our earlier research has suggested that aspirin can make certain types of immunotherapy more effective by preventing the cancer from making substances that weaken the immune response.

“Anti-inflammatory drugs like aspirin could hold the key to increasing the effectiveness of immunotherapy when used at the same time.

“Trialling the use of a drug like aspirin is exciting because it is so widely available and inexpensive to produce.

“We hope our trial will show that, when combined with immunotherapy, aspirin can enhance its effects and may ultimately provide a safe new way to treat breast cancer.”

Background

Around 8,000 women in the UK are diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer each year.

Currently, these women face limited treatment options for the condition - a situation that Dr Simon Vincent, director of research, support and influencing at Breast Cancer Now, said needs “urgently” addressing.

Scientists hope the aspirin trial will prove a successful option for treatment.

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