The loss of single hormone may cause colon cancer, a new study has revealed.
New evidence, gathered by researchers at Thomas Jefferson University, suggested that human colon cells might become cancerous when they lose the ability to produce a hormone that helps the cells maintain normal biology. If verified by further studies, it also suggested that treating patients at high risk for colon cancer by replacing the hormone guanylin could prevent the development of cancer.
Researchers found that guanylin production, measured by number of messenger RNAs for guanylin contained in each cell, decreased 100 to 1,000 times in more than 85 percent of colon cancers tested. They verified their results by also staining for the guanylin hormone production in slices of the tissue samples. They could detect no guanylin hormone in the cancer samples.
In addition, the researchers found that people over 50 years old produced much less of the hormone in their normal colon cells, which could help explain the increase in colon cancer risk in older individuals.
Colon cancer is the second leading cause of death from cancer for men and women and expected to cause 50,000 deaths in 2014, according to the American Cancer Society.
The next steps for researchers are to test whether hormone replacement could prevent colon cancer development and/or growth in mice, which could then be followed by tests in humans. In addition the team would also be working on understanding how exactly guanylin functions to maintain the normal health of colon cells.
The research is published in Cancer, Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR).