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Br J Cancer. 2004 Jul 19;91(2):381-8.

Evidence for colorectal cancer cell specificity of aspirin effects on NF kappa B signalling and apoptosis.

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  • 1Colon Cancer Genetics Group, University of Edinburgh Department of Oncology and MRC Human Genetics Unit, Western General Hospital, Crewe Rd, Edinburgh EH4 2XU, Scotland.


Epidemiological evidence indicates that non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) protect against colorectal cancer (CRC) to a greater degree than other non-gastrointestinal cancers, but the molecular basis for this difference is unknown. We previously reported that aspirin induces signal-specific I kappa B alpha degradation followed by NF kappa B nuclear translocation in CRC cells, and that this mechanism contributes substantially to aspirin-induced apoptosis. Here, we explored the hypothesis that cell-type specific effects on NF kappa B signalling are responsible for the observed differences in protection by aspirin against CRC compared to breast and gynaecological cancers. We also assessed whether COX-2 expression, mutation status of adenomatous polyposis coli (APC), beta-catenin, p53, or DNA mismatch repair (MMR) genes in CRC lines influenced aspirin-induced effects. We found that aspirin induced concentration-dependent I kappa B alpha degradation, NF kappa B nuclear translocation and apoptosis in all CRC lines studied. However, there was no such effect on the other cancer cell types, indicating a considerable degree of cell-type specificity. The lack of effect on NF kappa B signalling, paralleled by absence of an apoptotic response to aspirin in non-CRC lines, strongly suggests a molecular rationale for the particular protective effect of NSAIDs against CRC. Effects on NF kappa B and apoptosis were observed irrespective of COX-2 expression, or mutation status in APC, beta-catenin, p53 and DNA MMR genes, underscoring the generality of the aspirin effect on NF kappa B in CRC cells. These findings raise the possibility of cell-type specific targets for the development of novel chemopreventive agents.

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