January 19, 2017

Colorectal cancer clues

Although cancers arising from different areas of the large intestine are heterogeneous, they appear to use similar important tumorigenic pathways.

The colorectum (large intestine) is divided into proximal and distal regions based on differences in embryonic origin, physiological functions and gene expression. Colorectal cancer is heterogeneous depending on its location: for example, proximal tumors have a higher mortality than distal tumors. It is not known, however, whether molecular events contribute to the differences in cancers that arise from conventional adenomas (precursors to the majority of colorectal cancers).

Timothy Su, M.D., Ph.D., Martha Shrubsole, Ph.D., and colleagues evaluated a panel of eight biomarkers – selected because of their importance in colorectal tumorigenesis – in proximal and distal advanced conventional adenomas removed during colonoscopy.

The investigators found no significant differences between proximal and distal adenomas for any biomarker. Biomarkers did vary based on other features such as adenoma size, villous component and synchronousness (related to malignant potential).

The study, reported in the February issue of Molecular Carcinogenesis suggests similarly important and synergistic roles for the Wnt/beta-catenin and TGF-beta pathways in both proximal and distal colorectum, which may have implications for colorectal cancer prevention.

This research was supported by grants from the National Cancer Institute (CA097386, CA095103, CA122451, CA068485).

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