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Study Will Test if Aspirin can Prevent Hearing Loss caused by Cancer Medication

Update Date: May 08, 2014 02:57 PM EDT

One of the common side effects of cancer drugs and treatments is permanent hearing loss. Since hearing loss can greatly affect one's everyday life, researchers are starting a new trial to see if high doses of aspirin can potentially prevent it. The team from Cancer Research UK will start the trial today.

For the phase II trial, COAST, the researchers plan on recruiting 88 adult cancer patients who are taking the chemotherapy drug called cisplatin. Roughly 18,500 patients are on this medication and around 50 percent of them experience some kind of permanent hearing loss in one or both ears. The patients in this trial will be taken from hospitals in Southampton, London, Glasgow, Birmingham, Leeds, Cardiff, Newcastle, Poole and Bournemouth.

The team will assign a high-dose aspirin for half of the group to take four times a day. The regimen will start a day before cisplatin treatment starts and continue for three days subsequently. The remaining half of the sample will follow the same regimen but with a placebo drug instead. The team will administer hearing tests before the treatment starts and then one week and three months after.

"Cisplatin is used to treat several different types of cancer and undoubtedly saves many thousands of lives every year. So it's very unfortunate that for some patients this comes at the cost of some or all of their hearing," Professor Emma King, chief investigator and Cancer Research UK surgeon at the University of Southampton, said reported by Medical Xpress. "We don't know exactly why this is, but it could be linked to the drug causing a build up of destructive molecules called 'free radicals'. But aspirin seems to stop this happening by helping to mop them up before they can damage the delicate inner ear structures."

The researchers note that aspirin can also have fatal side effects for some patients. The drug can case internal bleeding. The researchers will be monitoring the patients carefully. The team hopes that if the trial is successful, they can start a larger, phase III trial within two years.

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