The Wales Cancer Bank, the nation’s facility for storing blood and tissue samples from cancer patients for use in research, has a crucial role in the world’s largest clinical trial.
That trial, ‘Add-Aspirin’ is testing whether a simple daily dose of aspirin could stop a wide range of cancers from recurring after treatment, draws on the Bank’s world-leading large-scale international trial expertise.
It is one of only two UK ‘biobanks’ involved, receiving samples from participants affected by common cancers including early-stage breast, oesophagus, stomach, prostate and bowel since 2015.
Part of the Wales Cancer Research Centre, funded by Health and Care Research Wales, the Bank’s involvement goes beyond understanding aspirin’s potential and spotting any side effects. Its stored samples from over 100 different centres in the UK are available for future research studies aimed at preventing and killing cancer, a disease that attacks a new person every two minutes.
Dr Fay Cafferty from the MRC CTU said: “The Wales Cancer Bank was selected …due to their extensive previous experience and successful work on large-scale, international, multi-centre clinical trials, as well as in routine sample collections, including a number of productive collaborations with the Medical Research Council, Velindre's Clinical Trials Unit and Cancer Research UK.”
Welsh people are also playing their part in the study, with participants joining Add-Aspirin at centres across Wales contributing to the target of 11,000 participants. Jayne Lambe is one such person, joining the trial after her diagnosis and treatment in 2016.
“I’m taking part in the study because I don’t want anyone else to go through what I have – it’s the most horrendous thing you can ever be told. If this is helping anybody in any way, it’s worth it.” Comments Jayne.
Having recently lost her father, Jayne experienced denial on diagnosis thinking her symptoms were tied up in her grief, but following treatment she is now in remission and joins thousands of other participants in taking one pill a day.
That pill may contain one of two doses of aspirin, or no dose at all (placebo), with neither Jayne nor her doctor knowing so that any feel-good, ‘placebo’ effect from simply taking a pill is accounted for. Jayne is now a year into the five year participation period, and will be monitored at routine follow up appointments with her doctor like all the other people involved.
Those centres include University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff, Wrexham Maelor Hospital and Glangwili General Hospital.
It will be some time after the trial stops recruiting in 2021 that the results will be known, but the potential for an inexpensive and simple way of preventing cancer returning is exciting. Health and Care Research Wales will be six years old by that time, still supporting research that changes lives and improves care.
Keep checking our news pages for the more research highlight stories.