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Results of a new trial have showed that taking an anti-acid reflux medication along with a low dose of aspirin can thwart oesophageal cancer in people with a high risk of the disease.

Funded by Cancer Research UK, AspECT is a Phase lll randomised trial that enrolled more than 2,500 men with Barrett’s oesophagus, a condition that is partly genetic and aggravated by reflux of acid into the oesophagus.

Patients with Barrett’s are at around a 50 times higher risk of oesophageal cancer, however only 2% go on to develop the disease.

Out of those who develop the cancer, only 12% have a chance to survive for ten years or more.

As part of the AspECT trial, the patients were randomly distributed in four groups to provide different doses of esomeprazole, a proton pump inhibitor (PPI), with and without low-dose aspirin.

“Our hope is that this may also offer an opportunity to prevent oesophageal cancer in wider populations.”

After following the four groups of patients for an average of 8.9 years, the researchers found that those treated with the combination of high-dose esomeprazole and low-dose aspirin for at least seven years were 20% less likely to develop oesophageal cancer than if they had been untreated.

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AspECT trial lead author Janusz Jankowski said: “Oesophageal cancer is hard to diagnose and hard to treat.

“So, we’re pleased that such a cheap and well-established medicine can prevent and/or delay development of cancer for these patients.

“Our hope is that this may also offer an opportunity to prevent oesophageal cancer in wider populations.”

In addition, Cancer Research UK has funded a similar trial called WASP for women and has concluded recruiting patients.