Leeds & West Yorkshire

Bowel cancer fish oil and aspirin treatment study

A major study is to be carried out to find out whether taking two pills a day - containing fish oil and aspirin - could help prevent bowel cancer.

About 1,000 people are to be recruited from the NHS Bowel Cancer Screening Programme (BCSP) in England to take part in the research.

The study, led by the University of Leeds, will look at the pills' effects.

The trial is expected to begin in April or May next year and up to 30 English hospitals in will be involved.

Protective effect

Bowel cancer is the world's third most common cancer, with more than a million new patients being diagnosed each year.

In most cases, the cancer develops from tiny, slow-growing nodules on the bowel wall, known as polyps.

Previous studies have shown that a substance found naturally in fish oil known as eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and aspirin can each, taken on their own, provide some protection against bowel polyps.

"Taken together, the protective effect may be even greater, as researchers now intend to find out," said Leeds University's Professor Mark Hull, who is leading the trial.

'Major advantage'

If effective pills could be found, patients at risk of developing the growths would need far fewer check-ups.

"A major advantage of EPA and aspirin is that they are both safe, have few side effects and they are already used widely by people who have heart disease or who have had a stroke," said Prof Hull.

"Other drugs that have been shown to prevent bowel polyps have been linked to an increase in heart attacks, so they are unsuitable for widespread use.

"If this treatment is shown to be safe and effective, then in future it could be given to more patients who have been found to have these pre-cancerous bowel polyps and are at risk of developing others in the future."

Researchers from the universities of Leeds, Bradford and Nottingham, and South Tyneside and Gateshead NHS Foundation Trusts, will be working with doctors and nurses from the BCSP on the trial.

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