Experts are to test the life-saving potential of a combination of aspirin with a stomach ulcer drug.
Test centres are being set up in Glasgow’s Western and Royal Infirmaries, Wishaw General Hospital and hospitals in Aberdeen and Dunfermline as part of a UK-wide drive to conquer one of the most aggressive forms of cancer. Around 5000 men who suffer from Barrett’s oesophagus – the condition linked to oesophageal cancer – will take part. The precancerous condition can be caused by acid formation in the stomach. Previous studies have indicated aspirin reduces the number of cases of oesophageal cancer, but one of the drug’s side-effects is an increased risk of stomach ulcers. Researchers will observe the effects of using aspirin and a drug that prevents acid formation called esomeprazole to treat Barrett’s oesophagus.
The number of Britons who have suffered oesophageal cancer has increased 12% over the last decade.
Professor Janusz, based at the Digestive Diseases Centre at the University of Leicester, said: “Only a small proportion of those with Barrett’s oesophagus will develop the cancer. “However, in the UK the number of those developing this cancer because of Barrett’s oesophagus is very high compared to the rest of the western world – three to four times the level seen in Europe or the US. “By successfully treating Barrett’s oesophagus, we could prevent up to half of cases of oesophageal cancer in this trial.” The UK is at the centre of an explosion. We hope these drugs will offer a simple method of preventing this particularly aggressive form of the disease.” Professor Robert Souhami, of Cancer Research UK, said: “It’s vital we continue to test prevention strategies like this.” This large-scale trial may be the first step towards a promising and realistic method of preventing many cases of this form of cancer.” Glasgow family doctors are already involved in trials into whether aspirin can combat heart disease. The trials involve men and women aged 50-75 with no symptoms of heart disease who are undergoing screenings that measure blood pressure.