Study Finds Key Link Responsible For Colon Cancer Initiation And Metastasis

The results provide critical new clues toward the prevention of colorectal cancer, the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the U.S. Despite the availability of colonoscopy screening, the 5-year survival rate remains low, due to a large number patients presenting with advanced stages of the disease. Currently, there are no clinically available blood tests for the early detection of sporadic colon cancer. Inflammation has long been associated with increasing ones risk for colon cancer. For instance, more than 20 percent of patients with a form of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) develop colorectal cancer within 30 years of diagnosis. This colitis-associated cancer has a slow progression, but a very poor response to treatment and a high mortality rate. Researchers have known that the broad mechanisms of cancer involve an interplay with the immune system response that includes: recruiting immune cells that influence the tumor microenvironment, escaping from host immunosurveillance and suppression, shifting of the host immune response, and tumor-associated angiogenesis to establish the blood supply. For the study, the research team first knocked-out or removed the CXCR2 gene in mice, and found that the signs typically associated with inflammation were prevented. Furthermore, they demonstrated that CXCR2 dramatically suppressed colonic inflammation and the colitis associated tumor formation, growth and progression in mice. CXCR2 decorates the outer part of immune cells called myeloid-derived suppressor cells, or MDSCs, that work to block the immune response of killer CD8+ T cells. In the knockout mice, without CXCR2 present, the MDSC cells could no longer migrate from the circulatory system to the colon, dodge the killer CD8+ T cell immune response, and feed the blood supply of the tumor environment. Furthermore, when they transplanted normal MDSC cells (with normal CXCR2) into the knockout mice, tumor formation was restored. These results provide the first genetic evidence that CXCR2 is required for recruitment of MDSCs into inflamed colonic mucosa and colitis-associated tumors, said DuBois. For DuBois, who has devoted his career to unraveling the inflammatory circuitry responsible for colon cancer, the results help connect the dots between the immune system, inflammation and tumor formation and metastasis.

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