Aspirin and acid reflux medication reduce the likelihood of patients with Barrett’s oesophagus developing oesophageal cancer.

Results of the AspECT clinical trial, coordinated by the CRUK Oxford Centre supported Oncology Clinical Trials Office, have shown the important role aspirin and acid reflux treatment can have in preventing those at high risk of oesophageal cancer from going on to develop the disease.

The trial led by Professor Janusz Jankowski had results presented last week at the American Society of Clinical Oncology conference. The trial investigated the chemo preventative effects of different doses of the antacid medication esomeprazole, with and without low dose aspirin in patients with Barrett’s oesophagus. Since acid reflux is involved in causing Barrett’s oesophagus it had been suggested that reduction of acid to very low levels might prevent progression to cancer.

The randomised phase III trial involved over 2500 patients who were followed for 7.9 years. Patients who followed a seven year course of high dose of esomeprazole with low dose aspirin, followed by high dose esomeprazole, were 20% less likely to develop oesophageal cancer than if they had been untreated.

Professor Janusz Jankowski, who completed an MSc in clinical trial research at Oxford University in 2009 and is currently Professor of Medicine at the University of Central Lancashire 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.”