Inflammation may play a significant role in the development of colon cancer, find researchers publishing in an early online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Research has shown a role for inflammation in many types of cancer. Most of these studies link the condition to oxidative stress, which in turn causes mutations in specific genes. In this study, investigators from Vanderbilt Institute of Chemical Biology built on this previous work with a study aimed at determining whether the genetic damage resulting from chronic inflammation, called oxidative stress, is limited to the specific cells that are damaged, or whether it invades the cell's DNA as well and thus is passed on to new cells.
Study author Lawrence J. Mamett, Ph.D., explains, "When the body experiences oxidative stress, molecules called free radicals are produced, and these free radicals can damage cells -- the cell membrane and the DNA."
The laboratory study involved a type of DNA damage caused by a product of the COX-2 enzyme, which is known to play a role in inflammation and is blocked by aspirin and other drugs known as COX-2 inhibitors. Researchers took the damaged DNA molecule and inserted it into mammalian kidney cells to see if it would replicate, and it did. The mutations seen in the study are similar to those known to cause an inherited form of colon cancer.
The investigators conclude chronic inflammation causes genetic abnormalities that might lead to cancer.