Calming the Cancer of Inflammation

Colorectal cancer risks decreased with EGFR in animal study

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease are major risk factors for colorectal cancer. Why? Because these diseases cause constant inflammation - something cancer thrives on.

Researchers have discovered a biologic paradox.

A well-known colon cancer contributor called epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) actually calms inflammation and reduces tumors formation in mice with IBD.

"If you have IBD, ask your doctor when to start colorectal cancer screening."

Brent Polk, MD, led a team of researchers at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles that studied IBD-related cancers in mice.

Working with two mouse models, the scientists found that EGFR turns down the inflammation dial and also helps to generate intestinal epithelium - a layer of tissue that lines the insides of our organs.

EGFR actually works in two ways: it calms the hostile environment of inflammation and builds up intestinal protection of the epithelium.

This study suggests that pumping up EGFR activity in people with IBD could ward off the long-term risks of colorectal cancer.

The authors write, "Thus, in developing therapies for IBD, not only the benefits for disease remission, but also the tumorigenic [tumor forming] potential of such treatments must be considered."

"More research is needed to find out if drugs that target EGFR might be appropriate treatment for colitis and other inflammatory bowel diseases," the authors write.

They conclude, "This emphasizes the need for a molecular approach to the individualized treatment of colorectal cancer..."

This research was published July 9th in The Journal of Clinical Investigation.

This work was supported by the National Institutes of Health, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America.

The authors have declared that no conflict of interest exists.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
July 9, 2012
Last Updated:
December 21, 2012