Colon and rectal cancer kill an estimated 50,000 Americans each year, according to the American Cancer Society. In this post, I bring you the latest update on research that aims to find the cure to colorectal cancer.
Colon Cancer Stopped in Its Tracks in Swiss Study
Swiss researchers report that they may have identified a way to stop colon cancer. The technique entails blocking a communications pathway known as Hedgehog-GLI (HH-GLI). By blocking this genetic pathway that allows cells to communicate with each other, the tumors can be blocked. This has the potential to prevent the cancer from progressing to advanced stages, from metastasizing, as well as from recurring.
According to lead researcher Professor Ariel Ruiz i Altaba of Geneva University
“Previous works hinted at the possible role of HH-GLI in colon cancer, but this was denied by other studies, so its involvement was never entirely clear… In this study we have proven that HH-GLI is essential for the development and growth of colon cancers.”
The blockade of the pathway is done using cyclopamine, a plant-derived compound that has been tested in mice and found to be effective.
New Target Eyed for Colon Cancer Drugs
A new targeted therapy for colon cancer is in the making and is showing promise. The drugs being tested are targeting ERBB3, a molecule found on the cell surface. There are already drugs that work similarly by targeting epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) and are effective against some types of cancer but not against colon cancer. ERBB3 is closely related to EGFR and blocking ERBB3 seems to be effective in stopping colon cancer cells.
According to lead author David Threadgill, adjunct professor in the department of genetics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a professor in the genetics department at North Carolina State University
“If you genetically remove ERBB3, as you would if you were pharmacologically targeting it, then the mice rarely develop colon cancer…If we can use an inhibitor to block ERBB3, then it should be a very potent anti-cancer therapy.”
Aspirin May Stem Deaths From Colorectal Cancer
While new therapies against colorectal are being developed, old drugs are also being rediscovered for their efficacy. Take, for example, good old aspirin. It’s not only effective against headaches, fever, and lately against cardiovascular disease, it can also work against colorectal cancer. A recent study showed that colorectal cancer who took aspirin regularly had a 29% lower risk of dying from the disease. The overall 5-year survival rate among aspirin users was 88% vs 83% among non-aspirin users. The 10-year survival rate was 74% and 69%, respectively.
According to the study’s lead author, Dr. Andrew Chan, a gastroenterologist at Massachusetts General Hospital and an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School: