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Br J Cancer. 2001 Nov 30;85(11):1759-63.

Increased endothelin-1 in colorectal cancer and reduction of tumour growth by ET(A) receptor antagonism.

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Departments of Surgery, Histopathology, The Royal Free and University College Medical School, 67-73 Riding House Street, London, UK.


Endothelin-1 (ET-1) is a vasoconstrictor peptide which stimulates proliferation in vitro in different cell types, including colorectal cancer cells. Raised ET-1 levels have been detected both on tissue specimens and in the plasma of patients with cancers. To investigate the role of ET-1 in colorectal cancer: (i) ET-1 plasma levels in patients with colorectal cancer were measured by radioimmunoassay: group 1 = controls (n = 22), group 2 = primary colorectal cancer only (n = 39), group 3 = liver metastases only (n = 26); (ii) ET-1 expression in primary colorectal cancer specimens (n =10) was determined immunohistochemically and (iii) the effect of intraportally infused antagonists to the two ET-1 receptors, ET(A) and ET(B), on the growth of liver metastases in a rat model was assessed. ET-1 plasma levels were significantly increased in both patients with primary tumour and patients with metastases, compared to controls (P < 0.01, 3.9 +/- 1.4, 4.5 +/- 1.5, vs. 2.75 +/- 1.37 pg/ml, respectively). Immunohistochemically, strong expression of ET-1 was found in the cytoplasm, stroma and blood vessels of cancers, unlike the normal colon where only the apical layer of the epithelium, vascular endothelial cells and surrounding stroma were positively stained. In the rat model, there was significant reduction in liver tumour weights compared to controls, following treatment with the ET(A) antagonist (BQ123) 30 min after the intraportal inoculation of tumour cells (P < 0.05). These results suggest ET-1 is produced by colorectal cancers and may play a role in the growth of colorectal cancer acting through ET(A) receptors. ET(A) antagonists are indicated as potential anti-cancer agents.

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