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In Vivo. 1998 Mar-Apr;12(2):159-66.

Inhibition of aberrant crypt foci by chemopreventive agents.

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  • 1Department of Gastrointestinal Medical Oncology and Digestive Disease, University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston 77030, USA.


The colon carcinogenic process is believed to begin with both genetic and morphological alterations in a few individual crypts. These select crypts, called aberrant crypt foci (ACF), are widely agreed upon as precursors of colon cancer. The ACF assay involves testing potential chemopreventive agents by counting the number of ACF in a carcinogen-treated colon. This assay has the advantage of not only being less expensive and time-consuming than tumor-producing studies, but will also allow the elucidation of the colon carcinogenic process by letting the researcher explore the changes that occur at a pre-cancerous stage. The ACF assay has been used most frequently in rodent models. In the rodent colon, ACF are easy to distinguish due to their distinct morphological, histological, and biological characteristics. In addition, the ACF assay has been used to look at specific genetic alterations in the crypts such as K-ras, p53, and APC mutations. Our laboratory has consistently used the ACF assay to test many potential chemopreventive agents using rats induced by the colon carcinogen azoxymethane (AOM). Potential chemopreventive agents have been tested in both the initiation or the post-initiation period Research supports the notion that aberrant crypt foci represent a true neoplastic lesion for colon cancer. By studying these lesions both grossly and genetically it may be possible to learn more about the causes of colon carcinogenesis. In addition, by testing new compounds through the ACF assay, it is possible not only to discover potentially new chemopreventive compounds, but also to discover the mechanisms behind them. Because of this, the ACF assay is an invaluable method that will help reveal the process of colon carcinogenesis.

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