Hopes cheap drug aspirin could treat aggressive breast cancer in young women

There are hopes cheap and widely available drug aspirin could boost immunotherapy in patients with triple negative breast cancer as an ‘exciting’ trial begins

Could cheap aspirin bring a breast cancer breakthrough?

Aspirin is being trialled as part of a potential new treatment for an aggressive form of breast cancer.

Researchers hope the cheap and common drug could work safely with immunotherapy in patients with triple negative breast cancer, which disproportionately affects younger women.

Dr Anne Armstrong, an oncologist at the Christie NHS Foundation Trust, said: “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.”

Immunotherapy medicines help the immune system attack cancer cells. The new trial will use avelumab with or without aspirin before surgery and chemotherapy treatment.

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A recent analysis of 118 studies by Cardiff University found taking aspirin is linked to reduction in cancer deaths.

They showed about 20% more of the patients who took aspirin for other reasons were likely to be alive compared with those patients who did not.

This is the first controlled clinical trial to test the theory. Funded by charity Breast Cancer Now, it will initially recruit 42 patients from the Christie in Manchester. Half will get avelumab alone and the other half aspirin plus avelumab.

If successful it could be tried on incurable secondary triple negative breast cancer, in which cancer cells have spread to other parts of the body.

Dr Simon Vincent, director at Breast Cancer Now, said: “The 8,000 women diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer in the UK each year face the frightening reality of limited treatment.

“Research has already suggested aspirin could improve outcomes for many cancer patients and we hope Dr Armstrong’s trial will show the same to be true for patients with triple negative breast cancer.”

It said pharmaceutical giant Pfizer has provided the charity with funding through an independent medical research grant and given researchers access to several Pfizer medicines.

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