Inexpensive Drugs Show Effectiveness at Cancer Prevention


Aspirin and a purified omega-3, called EPA, both low cost and readily available drugs, have been found to reduce the risk of developing bowel cancer, according to a study published in The Lancet journal. Results are based on a multidisciplinary collaboration between the Universities of Leeds, Nottingham, Bradfor, and Newcastle, as well as others.

The seAFOod Polyp Prevention Trial was opened in 2011 and recruited about 700 participants which were randomly assigned to four treatment groups (176 to placebo, 179 to EPA, 177 to aspirin, and 177 to EPA plus aspirin). They were tested for pre-cancerous polyps and given doses of either a 300 mg aspirin table, 2 grams EPA in four tablets or a combination of both for the last group.

At the end of one year, patients who took aspirin had 22% fewer polyps while the EPA group had on average 9% fewer, though mostly on the in the left side of the bowel. The most significant decrease was noticed for patients on the combined treatment, but further research is necessary in order to asses effectiveness.

Prevention is key in this common disease and it’s fascinating that the combination of widely available and relatively cheap drugs seemed to have such an impact“, said Professor David Crossman, Interim Director of the NIHR’s Efficacy and Mechanism Evaluation (EME) Programme.

EPA is naturally present in fish oil, however, the levels used in the trial were higher than what is found in most omega-3 supplements marketed to the public.

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 added lead author Mark Hull, Professor of Molecular Gastroenterology at the University of Leeds.

These findings have not only economic significance, but can bring a positive social aspect to counterbalance the burden on cancer.

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