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National brain tumour research funding needs to increase to £30-35 million a year

Major research project launched to crack aspirin’s anti-cancer properties

An international study, led by Queen Mary University of London and funded by a £5 million grant from Cancer Research UK, has been launched to answer some critical questions before aspirin can be recommended for use to reduce cancer risk.

Studies have estimated that widespread use of low-dose aspirin could lead to a 10% drop in the number of people dying from some cancers, but for every 17 lives saved by preventing cancer or heart attacks, there could be up to two deaths caused by strokes, bleeding or ulcers which are common side effects of the drug. So, studies need to be carried out to further analyse both the benefits and the risks of the drug before a final recommendation can be made.

To address this, Cancer Research UK’s epidemiology expert, Professor Jack Cuzick, based at Queen Mary's Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine, is leading an international collaboration of experts to identify people who are most likely to benefit from the drug and those who could be at greater risk of experiencing adverse side effects. The researchers will also investigate what the best dose is, how long to the drug should be taken for and how aspirin actually works to reduce cancer risk.

Repurposing or reformulating existing drugs is an exciting area of research in cancer therapy development. Researchers at our Centre of Excellence at the University of Portsmouth have been focusing on the study of a reformulation of aspirin to allow it to enter into the brain. Normal aspirin is insoluble and forms a suspension when it is dissolved in water and therefore very small concentrations actually enter into the brain. Initial study results by our scientists have demonstrated that this drug could act to boost the action of existing anti-brain-tumour drugs, thus making the therapy much more effective. Aspirin could also potentially kill some of the tumour cells directly. However, further studies are required before clinical trials can take place.

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