Our PhD student, Danny Legge, at Bristol University is investigating whether there may be a role for aspirin to improve how patients respond to the treatment they receive after having surgery.

Their work will combine laboratory studies with the ASPIRE trial (ASPirin with Irradiation in REctal cancer) which was a result of their previous work.

The research team 

The project is being led by Ann Williams, Professor of Experimental Oncology and Professor Chris Paraskeva at Bristol University.

Why might there be a role for aspirin?

Our genes govern all the biological processes that happen in us. Bowel cancer develops when our genes don’t function as normal, this is known as mutation.

Most bowel cancers have a mutation that affects processes relating to stem cells and cell renewal in the lining of the bowel. This lining, called the epithelial layer, renews itself every four to five days when stem cells generate the new bowel cells of this epithelial layer. Scientists think that it is mutations in the stems cells that give rise to bowel cancer.

The team’s previous research has suggested that aspirin may have a role to play in the processes that cause important genetic mutations but don’t know the exact mechanisms for this. They have seen in the lab that it has an effect on a protein which encourages genetic mutation called BCL-3 which indicates that it may be useful for increasing the effectiveness of current therapies that are used following surgery for bowel cancer.

Why is it important to do this research into aspirin and bowel cancer?

Currently patients show very different responses to conventional therapies after undergoing surgery. Aspirin has an identified track record in the clinic and if shown to be effective could be brought into treatment regimes easily. If the precise mechanism by which it works could be exploited, there is great potential for delivering new treatments for bowel cancer as well as other cancers.

This work may also help to identify those people with chronic inflammatory bowel conditions who are most likely to go on to develop cancer.