Head & Neck Oncology

, 4:40

First online:

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Feasibility of recruitment to an oral dysplasia trial in the United Kingdom

  • Paul NankivellAffiliated withInstitute of Head and Neck Studies and Education, University Hospitals Coventry and WarwickshireWarwick Medical School, University of Warwick
  • , Janet DunnAffiliated withClinical Trials Unit, University of Warwick
  • , Michael LangmanAffiliated withUniversity of Birmingham
  • , Hisham MehannaAffiliated withInstitute of Head and Neck Studies and Education, University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire Email author 



Oral epithelial dysplasia (OED) has a malignant potential. Therapeutic options for OED remain both limited and without good evidence. Despite surgery being the most common method of treating OED, recurrence and potentially significant morbidity remain problematic. Consequently, there has been much interest in non-surgical treatments for OED. Cyclo-oxygenase (COX) up-regulation is known to occur in the dysplasia-carcinoma sequence and evidence now exists that COX-2 is a prognostic marker of malignant transformation in OED. COX-inhibitors are therefore considered a potential therapeutic strategy for treating this condition. We aimed to provide both proof of principal evidence supporting the effect of topical COX inhibition, and determine the feasibility of recruitment to an OED chemoprevention trial in the UK.


Recruitment of 40 patients with oral leukoplakia to 4 study arms was planned. The total daily dose of Aspirin would increase in each group and be used in the period between initial diagnostic and follow-up biopsies.


During the 15-month recruitment period, 15/50 screened patients were eligible for recruitment, and 13 (87%) consented. Only 1 had OED diagnosed on biopsy. 16 patients were intolerant of, or already taking Aspirin and 16 patients required no biopsy. Initial recruitment was slow, as detection relied on clinicians identifying potentially eligible patients. Pre-screening new patient letters and directly contacting patients listed for biopsies improved screening of potentially eligible patients. However, as the incidence of OED was so low, it had little impact on trial recruitment. The trial was terminated, as recruitment was unlikely to be achieved in a single centre.


This feasibility trial has demonstrated the low incidence of OED in the UK and the difficulties in conducting a study because of this. With an incidence of around 1.5/100,000/year and a high proportion of those patients already taking or intolerant of Aspirin, a large multi-centred trial would be required to fulfil the recruitment for this study. The ability of topical non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to modify COX and prostaglandin expression remains an important but unanswered question. Collaboration with centres in other parts of the world with higher incidences of the disease may be required to ensure adequate recruitment.




Oral dysplasia Aspirin Clinical trial Feasibility