Cheap, Accessible Drug May Offer Hope for Aggressive Cancer

Researchers hope aspirin will boost immunotherapy in new clinical trial
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 18, 2021 12:50 PM CDT
Aspirin as Breast Cancer Treatment? That's the Hope
This 2008 photo shows generic regular-strength, enteric-coated 325mg aspirin tablets.   (Wikimedia/Ragesoss)

A trial is underway to determine whether an aggressive breast cancer might be treated with help from an inexpensive and widely available drug: aspirin. Researchers at the Christie NHS Foundation Trust in Manchester, England, will test whether aspirin makes difficult-to-treat tumors more responsive to cancer-fighting drugs, as animal studies suggest, per the BBC. Tumors found in patients with triple-negative breast cancer, an aggressive form that accounts for 10% to 15% of all breast cancers and disproportionately affects Black and younger women, lack estrogen or progesterone receptors, which some other breast cancers have, "meaning certain treatments, such as [monoclonal antibody] Herceptin, will not work," per the BBC. That leaves "few treatment options and a long and debilitating treatment plan," Beth Bramall, a 44-year-old patient, tells the outlet.

The trial, funded by a research program of the Breast Cancer Now charity, will look at whether aspirin's anti-inflammatory properties increase the effectiveness of avelumab, a type of immunotherapy, "by preventing the cancer from making substances that weaken the immune response," trial leader Dr. Anne Armstrong says, per the Guardian. Patients will receive avelumab with and without aspirin before surgery and chemotherapy. If the trial is successful, further research may look at aspirin's effect on people with incurable secondary triple-negative breast cancer, which occurs when cancer cells escape the breast and spread in the body. Bramall is certainly hoping for a positive outcome. "It's been the hardest 18 months for me and my family" since her diagnosis, she tells the BBC. "And I have over two more years of treatments and scans ahead." (More breast cancer stories.)

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