Researchers await verification of aspirin and cancer survival announcement
A report that aspirin doubled the life expectancy of patients with gastrointestinal cancer should be viewed with caution until there is proof to substantiate the claim, said Australian oncologist and cancer researcher, Associate Professor Peter Gibbs.
The European Cancer Congress in Vienna recently announced a Netherlands study in almost 14,000 people which found those taking aspirin after a diagnosis of cancer were twice as likely to be alive after four years as those who did not take the drug.
Associate Professor Gibbs, an investigator of the cancer aspect of the ASPREE trial, said details of the Netherlands study had not been published for critique by peer researchers, making the report difficult to interpret.
“This research provides an interesting addition to the cancer/aspirin picture, particularly as it looks at years of cancer survival. However, there is no evidence to prove aspirin made the difference in survival rates. We don’t have details such as the age, gender and health of participants in the study, the dose and duration of aspirin use, or the stage of cancers and other variables that may have affected the findings,“ said Associate Professor Peter Gibbs.
“Only a large randomised placebo controlled trial can provide strong evidence of a causal effect on cancer. Any proposed cancer therapies, including aspirin, must be reliably proven for the benefits to outweigh the risks, such as bleeding, before it can be widely recommended.”
The UK government-backed National Health Service questioned the validity of the Netherlands study on its website. “Unfortunately, the claims appearing in the media are based solely on a press release and abstract of research being presented at a scientific conference. This means the results and conclusions won’t have been verified by independent experts and we don’t have all the information to appraise such research. For these reasons, we need to be cautious about this finding,” said the NHS statement.
Associate Professor Gibbs said the ASPREE cancer sub-study, ACES, which was investigating the effect of 100mg of aspirin on the development and spread of malignant cancers in 19,000 older people in Australia and the US, would add critical information to the aspirin/cancer question in an older population. Participants in the ASPREE Cancer Endpoints sub-study are providing DNA, blood and tumour tissue samples to enable future research into genetic patterns and biomarkers associated with cancer.
The conference media statement said researchers had commenced a randomised controlled trial of 80 mg of aspirin on the survival of elderly patients with bowel cancer, with the aim to include other gastrointestinal cancers in the trial later on.
Anyone thinking about changing their aspirin regime is strongly recommended to speak to their doctor first.
ASPREE is an international, randomised, placebo-controlled primary prevention aspirin trial in 19,000 older people. Led by Monash University in Australia, ASPREE will determine whether low-dose (100mg) aspirin prolongs good health and if the benefits outweigh the risks in healthy people aged 70 years and more.
The ASPREE study is funded by the US National Institute on Aging, with funding support also received from the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) and the Victorian Cancer Agency (VCA). The ACES sub-study is funded by the National Cancer Institute.
For more information, call ASPREE on 1800 728 745 (toll free from a landline) or visit www.aspree.org
Pictured: Associate Professor Gibbs is an oncologist and an investigator on the cancer aspect of the ASPREE study.