Taking a combination of an anti-reflux medication and a low dose of aspirin can prevent oesophageal cancer in people at higher risk, according to new research presented today.
The AspECT trial saw patients with Barrett’s oesophagus, a condition that increases the risk of oesophageal cancer, given a high dose of esomeprazole, which reduces the production of stomach acid, alongside a low dose of aspirin.
Results showed that people who took this combination for at least seven years were 20% less likely to develop oesophageal cancer than if they had been untreated.
About Barrett’s oesophagus
Barrett’s oesophagus is a condition partly genetically predisposed and aggravated by reflux of acid into the oesophagus. Those with the condition are at around 50 times greater risk of the condition, though only 2% go on to develop the disease.
Professor Janusz Jankowski, lead author and Cancer Research UK-funded researcher at the Royal College of Surgeons, Ireland, and the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, UK, said: “Our results are very exciting.
“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.”
What’s the most effective combination?
Researchers also followed the patients for an average of 8.9 years and it was found that the most effective combination was high-dose esomeprazole with low-dose aspirin, followed by high-dose esomeprazole.
Dr Justine Alford, from Cancer Research UK, said: “The Cancer Research UK-funded trial shows that combining a stomach acid-reducing medicine – a PPI – with aspirin has potential to delay or maybe even prevent oesophageal cancer in people who have Barrett’s oesophagus, a condition present in at least 2% of the population caused by chronic acid reflux that raises the risk of developing this cancer.
“It’s important to remember that even though you can buy it over the counter aspirin, can have serious side effects like internal bleeding, so anyone thinking of taking regular aspirin should chat to their doctor first.
“Oesophageal cancer can be hard to diagnose at an early stage and so can be hard to treat; there hasn’t been a significant improvement in survival for decades.
“Cancer Research UK has therefore identified oesophageal cancer as a cancer of unmet need, along with brain tumours, lung cancer, and pancreatic cancer. We will increase our investment in researching these cancers two- to threefold over the next five years.”