Researchers are trialling aspirin in combination with immunotherapy as a treatment for triple negative breast cancer.

The research, led by Dr Anne Armstrong from the Christie NHS Foundation Trust in Manchester, is the first of its kind and aims to discover whether aspirin can make tumours more sensitive to immunotherapy.

Triple negative breast cancer is a particularly aggressive form of breast cancer that disproportionately affects younger women and black women, with around 8,000 women diagnosed in the UK every year.

The results could lead to further clinical trials for incurable secondary triple negative breast cancer

Funded by the charity Breast Cancer Now, the researchers will trial the immunotherapy drug avelumab both with and without aspirin before surgery and chemotherapy treatment.

The trial follows previous research which showed that pairing an immunotherapy drug with aspirin helped to control tumour growth in mice, compared to the use of immunotherapy drugs on their own.

The charity says that, if successful, the results could lead to further clinical trials of aspirin and avelumab for incurable secondary triple negative breast cancer, which occurs when cancer cells spread to other parts of the body.

“We hope our trial will … provide a safe new way to treat breast cancer”

Dr Armstrong described the trial as “exciting”, since aspirin is so widely available and cheap to produce. She added: “Our earlier research has suggested that aspirin can make certain types of immunotherapy more effective by preventing the cancer from making substances that weaken the immune response.

“Anti-inflammatory drugs like aspirin could hold the key to increasing the effectiveness of immunotherapy when used at the same time.”

“We hope our trial will show that, when combined with immunotherapy, aspirin can enhance its effects and may ultimately provide a safe new way to treat breast cancer.”