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A study looking at using aspirin for pre cancerous white patches in the mouth (ASPOD)

This study looked at using aspirin to treat white patches (leukoplakia) in the mouth. This study was supported by Cancer Research UK.

White patches in the mouth are mostly harmless. But a small number may have changes in the cells (dysplasia) that if left untreated may develop into cancer. Doctors call these patches pre cancerous.

Doctors can treat these pre cancerous patches with surgery. But sometimes they come back. So doctors are always looking for new ways to treat them, stop them coming back and stop them becoming cancer.

We knew from research that aspirin may help protect some people from certain types of cancer. The researchers thought an aspirin mouthwash might help people with pre cancerous white patches in the mouth.

The aims of this study were to find out

  • How aspirin mouthwashes affected pre cancerous white patches in the mouth
  • How acceptable and safe it was for people to use aspirin mouthwashes
  • If it would be possible to do a trial with a larger number of people


Start 01/02/2010
End 06/09/2011



Summary of results

The team found that doing the study in one hospital was difficult. This was mainly due to the small number of people who had pre cancerous white patches in their mouth.

This was a pilot (feasibility) study. The study team wanted to recruit 40 people. After 15 months they found only 15 people who were able to take part. Of these 15 people, 13 consented to take part. Only one person had pre cancerous white patches in their mouth.

At this stage the study’s management committee considered it was unlikely to recruit enough people into the study. So they decided to stop recruiting and closed the study.

The study team concluded that the question of using aspirin to treat pre cancerous patches in the mouth is an important question that remains unanswered. Future researchers would need to do a large multi centre trial, possibly involving centres from other countries.   

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 (peer reviewed) and published in a medical journal. The figures we quote above were provided by the trial team. We have not analysed the data ourselves.

Chief Investigator

Professor Hisham Mehanna

Supported by

Cancer Research UK
National Institute for Health Research Cancer Research Network (NCRN)
University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire
Warwick Medical School Clinical Trials Unit
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Updated: 20 November 2013