Bowel Cancer

Richard Brady –  Taking aspirin to reduce risk of bowel cancer

Regularly taking aspirin over a long period decreases the risk of developing bowel cancer: why? – A study to understand why regularly taking aspirin seems to reduce the risk of bowel cancer – based at the University of Edinburgh.


It has long been known that regularly taking aspirin reduces the risk of getting bowel cancer and other forms of the disease, but not why. Major research trials are now underway which should shed some light on this, including the ADD-ASPIRIN study looking at whether the drug prevents recurrence of cancer. Many of these trials rely on a model developed by researchers working with a BDRF grant back in 2009.

This model allowed researchers to test the interaction between human bowel tissue and aspirin outside of the human body. It was an essential step towards understanding what processes aspirin affects inside the bowel, and why these lead to a reduced risk of cancers forming.

The development of a working environment to run these tests enabled the team to secure major grant funding for much larger studies from the Medical Research Council and Cancer Research UK. BDRF’s initial support for the work was crucial to the major international studies underway today.

Further Information

Publication in Carcinogenesis Journal

Andrew Renehan – Is a ‘watch and wait’ approach safe for patients after successful radiotherapy?

Some people see an excellent response to radiotherapy, but still undergo major surgery to remove part of their bowel as a precaution – is it safe to avoid and simply ‘watch and wait’ instead? – based at the Christie Hospital Manchester


Some rectal cancer patients experience what is known as a ‘complete response’ to radiotherapy treatment, meaning their tumour has been shrunk to the point it no longer shows up on scans. Standard NHS guidelines however still require the removal of the affected section of bowel as a precaution, in case cancer cells remain in the body leading to a recurrence.

This surgery has life-changing consequences, often leading to permanent colostomy for patients. Many coloproctologists now believe that advances in imaging technology mean a diligent ‘watch and wait’ approach, where the patient is carefully observed to see if cancer shows any signs of returning, is safe. We funded important research in Manchester to test this theory. The findings were so important they featured in the Lancet Oncology Journal and drew a welcoming response from then President of ACPGBI Bob Steele.

The project suggested colostomy-free survival rates could be improved, without a loss of safety for the patients. The team were able to recommend that these findings inform decisions on patient care at the beginning of treatment. BDRF funded work has led the way to a potentially major change in standard NHS cancer care.

Further information:

Publication in Lancet Oncology

Ricky Sharma 2012 – Personalising Chemoradiotherapy for individual patients.

Making radiotherapy for rectal cancer more effective by identifying which drugs should be used for individual purposes – A project to identify novel chemotherapy drugs which kill cancer cells and make radiotherapy more effective – based at the University of Oxford.


Fully personalised treatment is the Holy Grail of cancer research. Current ‘one size fits all’ care doesn’t work well or even at all for a large number of patients. Because the genetic makeup of all tumours is different, some will respond well to particular drugs while others are barely affected. Identifying which drugs break down specific cells within a tumour would revolutionise care, enabling doctors to tailor treatment plans for specific patients based on the makeup of their cancer.

BDRF’s work in Oxford discovered 20 cell lines present in colorectal cancer which responded to drugs already approved for clinical use. The research successfully identified novel drugs which make radiotherapy more effective against rectal cancers. A full clinical trial is now in development to test the most effective of these in humans. It represents one of the most exciting advances BDRF has been involved in.

Further information:

Project final report



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