New Clues to Stopping Colitis-Linked Cancer

2 immune system proteins could hold the key, study finds

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MONDAY, Feb 2, 2009 (HealthDay News) -- Two immune system proteins may someday help doctors treat and prevent colitis-associated cancer (CAC), a new study suggests.

The Interleukin 6 (IL-6) cytokine, a protein released by cells in the immune system, plays a key role in tumor production of colitis-associated cancer, according to a study on mice done at the University of California, San Diego, School of Medicine. This work by IL-6 appears dependent on STAT3, a transcription factor that encourages cancer development, according to the findings published in the Feb. 3 online edition of Cancer Cell.

The findings suggest that targeting IL-6 and Stat3 mught be a way to stop or treat CAC, said lead researcher Michael Karin, a professor of pharmacology and pathology at the university and a member of its cancer center. For example, when researchers removed STAT3 from intestinal epithelial cells, the development of colitis-associated cancer stopped in the mice.

Inflammatory bowel disease, such as ulcerative colitis, puts people at a greater risk of developing colorectal cancer. Nearly half of people with the malignancy die from it.

The new study backs previous work by the San Diego researchers, who suspected that IL-6 helped foster chronic inflammation and the survival of malignant cells that helped promote cancer.

More information

The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more about colorectal cancer.

SOURCE: University of California - San Diego, news release, Feb. 2, 2009

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