Last year in the UK over 60,000 cancer patients enrolled on clinical trials aimed at improving cancer treatments and making them available to all.
A trial looking at preventing bowel cancer with aspirin or resistant starch (CAPP 2)
This trial looked at aspirin and starch to prevent people with a rare condition called HNPCC from developing bowel cancer.
More about this trial
People who have HNPCC, and their close relatives, are offered regular check ups and screening with a colonoscopy to look inside the bowel. During the test, the doctor will remove any polyps (adenomas) found in the bowel.
Resistant starch is a form of corn starch which is hard to digest. It is not broken down in the upper gut and instead finds its way to the large bowel where it is fermented by bacteria. This produces chemicals like the fatty acid butrate, which is protective against cancer. Earlier research also suggested that aspirin may prevent polyps forming.
The aim of this study was to see if aspirin, resistant starch or both can stop people with HNPCC developing bowel cancer.
Summary of results
The trial team found that aspirin reduced the number of bowel cancers developing in people with HNPCC.
937 people took part in this trial. Everybody had treatment for between 1 and 4 years.
- One quarter had aspirin and resistant starch
- One quarter had aspirin with ordinary corn starch (which acts as a dummy drug (placebo))
- One quarter had dummy aspirin tablets and resistant starch
- One quarter had dummy aspirin tablets and ordinary corn starch
Everybody had a colonoscopy before treatment started and again every 1 to 2 years after that.
Some results were published in 2008. At that time, the researchers found a similar number of people in the 4 different treatment groups had developed polyps or bowel cancer.
The planned long term results were first published in 2011 when they had followed people up for an average of more than 5 ½ years.
Of the 937 people who took part in the trial
- 427 had taken aspirin
- 434 had taken dummy aspirin tablets
- 76 did not have either as they chose not to join the part of the trial looking at aspirin
The researchers looked at how many people had developed bowel cancer and found it was
- 18 in the group who had aspirin
- 30 in the groups who had dummy tablets
They concluded that aspirin did reduce the number of people with HNPCC developing bowel cancer. They could see this difference after people had been taking the drug for 3 to 4 years. More long term follow up published in 2012 showed no benefit in taking resistant starch.
A trial called CaPP3 started in 2014 to work out the best dose of aspirin to take and the ideal length of time people should take it for.
We have based this summary on information from the team who ran the trial. The information they sent us has been reviewed by independent specialists (
How to join a clinical trial
Please note: In order to join a trial you will need to discuss it with your doctor, unless otherwise specified.
Professor Sir John Burn
Cancer Research UK
Medical Research Council (MRC)
National Institute for Health Research (NIHR)