Protein levels indicate risk of death in some colorectal cancer patients

December 9, 2008

A pair of proteins may help explain why people with surgically removed colorectal cancer and who are overweight, physically inactive, and follow a Western-pattern diet may have an increased risk of dying of the disease or other causes, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute scientists report in a new study.

The researchers found that in people who have undergone surgery for colorectal cancer, the levels of two insulin-related proteins in their blood before diagnosis predicted their chances of dying from the cancer or other conditions. Patients with high prediagnosis levels of insulin-like growth factor binding protein-1 (IGFBP-1) were more than half as likely to succumb to the disease; while those with high levels of C-peptide were nearly twice as likely to die. The results are being published online by the Journal of Clinical Oncology on Dec. 8

The study was the first to consider whether proteins whose blood levels are influenced by lifestyle factors can be a gauge of a patient's chances of surviving stage I-III colorectal cancer. It was designed to explore why people with certain characteristics -- namely, obesity, physical inactivity, and an unhealthy diet -- have an increased risk of colon cancer, cancer recurrence, and death. Such lifestyle factors can lead to high levels of circulating insulin, a hormone that may bind directly to colon cancer cells and spur their growth. High insulin levels also lead to lead to numerous alterations in other blood proteins, which may influence cancer cell growth.

"We don't know yet whether the two proteins identified in this study are part of the actual mechanism that promotes colon cancer recurrence or whether they are simply 'markers' for risk of colon cancer recurrence and death," says the study's lead author, Brian Wolpin, MD, MPH, of Dana-Farber and Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH). "But the results underscore the growing evidence that lifestyle choices can have an impact on the risk of recurrence in patients with surgically removed colorectal cancer."

Using data from the Nurses' Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study -- two long-term studies tracking participants' health -- investigators examined prediagnosis levels of four insulin-related proteins in 373 people who later developed stage I-III colorectal cancer. All four proteins are known to increase or decrease in response to lifestyle factors such as overweight, physical inactivity, and poor nutrition.

Levels of two of the proteins were unrelated to colon cancer recurrence or death. The connection between IGFBP-1, C-peptide, and mortality, however, was strong. Patients with the highest levels of IGFBP-1 had a 56 percent lower risk of death during the study period, and a 57 percent lower risk of dying from colorectal cancer. Researchers speculate that the protein may exert a protective effect by blocking other growth factors that contribute to colon cancer cell proliferation.

High levels of C-peptide, by contrast, doubled the risk of overall death in people with cancer but were not significantly associated with death from colorectal cancer itself. This may be because of an even stronger link between high insulin levels of other potentially fatal diseases such as heart disease and stroke, or because C-peptide is not as accurate a measure of insulin-related hormonal changes as other proteins, the study authors speculate.

Source: Dana-Farber Cancer Institute

Explore further: Researchers identify epigenetic orchestrator of pancreatic cancer cells

Related Stories

Researchers identify epigenetic orchestrator of pancreatic cancer cells

December 11, 2017
Genentech researchers have identified an enzyme that shifts pancreatic cancer cells to a more aggressive, drug-resistant state by epigenetically modifying the cells' chromatin. The study, which will be published December ...

Insights on how SHARPIN promotes cancer progression

December 11, 2017
Researchers at Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery (SBP) and the Technion in Israel have found a new role for the SHARPIN protein. In addition to being one of three proteins in the linear ubiquitin chain assembly complex ...

Protein Daple coordinates single-cell and organ-wide directionality in the inner ear

December 11, 2017
Humans inherited the capacity to hear sounds thanks to structures that evolved millions of years ago. Sensory "hair cells" in the inner ear have the amazing ability to convert sound waves into electrical signals and transmit ...

PUMA pathway is a weak link in breast cancer metastasis

December 11, 2017
Substantial advancements have improved the success of chemotherapy, radiation, and surgical treatments for primary breast cancers. However, breast cancer that has spread, or metastasized, to other parts of the body remains ...

Specific protein promotes development of pancreatitis and tumours

December 5, 2017
Pancreatic cancer is one of the most aggressive forms of cancer and is currently very difficult to treat. However, the last few years have seen advances in the scientific understanding of how this cancer develops at a molecular ...

Adjuvant Trastuzumab did not improve outcomes for patients with HER2-low breast cancer

December 6, 2017
Adding trastuzumab (Herceptin) to standard adjuvant chemotherapy did not improve invasive disease–free survival for patients with early-stage breast cancer found to have low levels of HER2, as defined as immunohistochemistry ...

Recommended for you

'Bet hedging' explains the efficacy of many combination cancer therapies

December 14, 2017
The efficacy of many FDA-approved cancer drug combinations is not due to synergistic interactions between drugs, but rather to a form of "bet hedging," according to a new study published by Harvard Medical School researchers ...

Scientists unlock structure of mTOR, a key cancer cell signaling protein

December 14, 2017
Researchers in the Sloan Kettering Institute have solved the structure of an important signaling molecule in cancer cells. They used a new technology called cryo-EM to visualize the structure in three dimensions. The detailed ...

Liquid biopsy results differed substantially between two providers

December 14, 2017
Two Johns Hopkins prostate cancer researchers found significant disparities when they submitted identical patient samples to two different commercial liquid biopsy providers. Liquid biopsy is a new and noninvasive alternative ...

Testing the accuracy of FDA-approved and lab-developed cancer genetics tests

December 14, 2017
Cancer molecular testing can drive clinical decision making and help a clinician determine if a patient is a good candidate for a targeted therapeutic drug. Clinical tests for common cancer causing-mutations in the genes ...

Newest data links inflammation to chemo-brain

December 14, 2017
Inflammation in the blood plays a key role in "chemo-brain," according to a published pilot study that provides evidence for what scientists have long believed.

One in five young colon cancer patients have genetic link

December 13, 2017
As doctors grapple with increasing rates of colorectal cancers in young people, new research from the University of Michigan may offer some insight into how the disease developed and how to prevent further cancers. Researchers ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.