Study reports positive data for aspirin in bowel cancer prevention

22nd November 2018 (Last Updated August 12th, 2019 10:38)

A clinical study has reported that both aspirin and purified omega-3 eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) are safe and effective in reducing the number of pre-cancerous polyps in patients at high risk of developing bowel cancer.

Study reports positive data for aspirin in bowel cancer prevention
Aspirin and purified omega-3 eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) could prevent bowel cancer. Credit: University of Leeds.

A clinical study has reported that both aspirin and purified omega-3 eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) are safe and effective in reducing the number of pre-cancerous polyps in patients at high risk of developing bowel cancer.

Data from the seAFOod trial showed that both low-cost drugs have reduced the number of bowel polyps in patients one year on from a screening colonoscopy called large bowel camera test.

However, the drugs were unable to lower the chances of an individual having any polyps present in the bowel.

Led by the University of Leeds, the study found that patients taking aspirin developed fewer polyps overall, including on the right side of the large bowel, which is the most difficult part to track by colonoscopy and the furthest from the rectum.

Patients treated with EPA also developed fewer polyps, but this impact was seen only on polyps on the left side of the bowel, which is the nearest part to the rectum.

"Given this new evidence, clinicians need to consider these agents for patients at elevated risk of bowel cancer, alongside regular colonoscopy surveillance."

seAFOod trial lead author and University of Leeds molecular gastroenterology professor Mark Hull said: “The seAFOod trial demonstrates that both aspirin and EPA have preventative effects, which is particularly exciting given that they are both relatively cheap and safe compounds to give to patients.

“Given this new evidence, clinicians need to consider these agents for patients at elevated risk of bowel cancer, alongside regular colonoscopy surveillance.”

The seAFOod trial was conducted as part of a collaboration between the Universities of Leeds, Nottingham, Bradford and Newcastle, and others.

It enrolled over 700 people from 53 hospitals across England.

Funding for the trial was provided by a Medical Research Council (MRC) and National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) partnership under the EME Programme.

Patients were randomly assigned to one of the four treatment groups to receive a daily dose of either a 300mg aspirin tablet, 2g EPA in four capsules, a combination of both aspirin and EPA, or placebos only for one year.

The seAFOod trial was designed to investigate whether aspirin and EPA could provide another layer of prevention alongside colonoscopy.