Aspirin may be used in future treatments of breast cancer, with doctors saying it can make hard-to-treat tumours more responsive to anti-cancer drugs.

A new trial is starting in Manchester, England, with triple-negative breast-cancer patients, run by a team at the Christie NHS Foundation Trust.

The team suspects aspirin’s anti-inflammatory properties may be what boost the effectiveness of anti-cancer drugs, rather than its analgesic effect.

Though animal studies have shown encouraging results and there is some evidence aspirin may help prevent other cancers, more research is needed before it is recommended as a treatment.

Around 15 percent of breast cancers are triple negative, which is a more aggressive type of breast cancer and frequently affects younger women and black women.

Triple negative cancer tumours lack some of the receptors that other breast cancers have, which means they can’t be treated with drugs such as herceptin.

But other treatments could work.

In the Manchester trial, some patients will be given aspirin and immunotherapy drug avelumab before they undergo surgery and chemotherapy.

If the trial is successful, further clinical trials could start to test the effectiveness of aspirin and avelumab on incurable secondary triple-negative breast cancer – the stage where cancer cells start to spread to other parts of the body.

“Not all breast cancers respond well to immunotherapy,” trial lead Dr Anne Armstrong said.

“Trialling the use of a drug like aspirin is exciting because it is so widely available and inexpensive to produce.

“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.”

Co-researcher Dr Rebecca Lee said their findings suggest that aspirin may be preventing the cancer from making substances that weaken the body’s immune response, in turn increasing the effectiveness of certain types of immunotherapy.

“We hope aspirin can dampen down bad inflammation so the immune system can get on with the job of killing cancer cells,” she said.

This article first appeared on Over60.