Professor Peter Rothwell of Oxford University chaired the annual Scientific Conference of the International Aspirin Foundation in London on 28 August 2015. It took the form of four sessions.
Aspirin has more than one action in its effects on disease. Its acetylation of cyclooxygenase 2 (COX-2) in platelets leads to the blockade of pro-inflammatory chemicals and generation of anti-inflammatory mediators and increase in nitrous oxide (NO) production, which helps to preserve arterial endothelium. But platelets are not its only target. There is now evidence that aspirin has a direct antitumour effect on intestinal mucosal cells that block their potential transformation into cancer cells.
Randomised placebo-controlled trials (RCTs) in people with histories of colorectal neoplasia have shown that aspirin reduces the risk of recurrent adenomas and reduces long-term cancer incidence in patients with Lynch syndrome. Among women given aspirin for cardiovascular disease, there were fewer cancers than in those given placebo. Epidemiological evidence has suggested that aspirin treatment after cancer is diagnosed reduces the incidence of metastases and prolongs survival, and long-term studies of anticancer treatment with aspirin are under way to confirm this.
Apart from cancer studies, aspirin use is now firmly established as treatment for antiphospholipid syndrome (Hughes syndrome) and is being used to prevent and treat the heightened risk of cardiovascular disease in diabetes mellitus and in patients with HIV.