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Carcinogenesis. 2003 Dec;24(12):1887-96. Epub 2003 Aug 29.

Spontaneous ECL cell carcinomas in cotton rats: natural course and prevention by a gastrin receptor antagonist.

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  • 1Department of Cancer Research and Molecular Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, N-7006 Trondheim, Norway.


In our inbred strain of cotton rats (Sigmodon hispidus) 50% of the females develop spontaneous ECL cell-derived tumors in the acid-producing part of the stomach due to hypergastrinemia secondary to gastric hypoacidity. Although the mechanism behind the hypoacidity is unknown, the female cotton rat is an excellent model for studying ECL cell-related tumorigenesis. In this study we wanted to explore the malignancy potential of these tumors and the ability of a gastrin receptor antagonist (YF476) to prevent their development. First, nine hypergastrinemic female cotton rats (10 months of age) were diagnosed by laparotomy as having gastric tumors. They were killed 6 months later. Second, 18 female cotton rats (2 months of age) were dosed monthly for 6 months with YF476 (500 micro mol/kg body wt) by s.c. injection, while 21 age-matched animals received vehicle. Samples from each stomach were collected for histology, immunohistochemistry and northern blot analysis. The gastric tumors harbored cells with immunohistochemical features of ECL cells. The tumors were found at times to invade and penetrate the stomach wall and to metastasize to perigastric sites. ECL-derived tumor cells were discovered in peritoneal fluid. At death only 1 out of 18 animals given YF476 displayed carcinomas (invasive growth), compared with 7 out of 21 in the vehicle dosed control group (P = 0.048). The spontaneous gastric tumors in cotton rats derived from ECL cells. The tumors were able to penetrate the stomach wall and to metastasize by intracavital seeding. Gastrin receptor blockade lowered the incidence of such tumors. We propose that the tumors are ECL cell carcinomas and that gastrin is the driving force behind the transformation from normal to malignant ECL cells.

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