Separating a cancer prevention drug from heart disease risk

September 13, 2011, Emory University

Several clinical studies have shown that taking the anti-inflammatory drug celecoxib can reduce the risk of developing polyps that lead to colon cancers, at the cost of increasing the risk of heart disease. But what if this tradeoff was not necessary?

Researchers at Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University have identified a way that celecoxib () pushes cancer cells into suicide, separately from its known effects. The Winship team's results outline a route to alternatives to celecoxib that keep its cancer-preventive properties while avoiding its risks.

Celecoxib's risk profile has confined its use to people who have inherited or those who have had cancer already. Its effectiveness at stopping and recurrence is being tested in several clinical trials for people who have had lung, head and neck and other .

Shi-Yong Sun, PhD, and colleagues report in an upcoming issue of the journal that celecoxib inhibits an enzyme called GSK3 (glycogen synthase kinase 3) in . This causes the disappearance of a protein called c-FLIP, which usually staves off apoptosis, a form of cellular suicide.

"We have been focusing on how celecoxib induces c-FLIP degradation and apoptosis in cancer cells, independent of COX-2 inhibition," Sun says.

Scientists think that celecoxib's ability to inhibit COX-2 enzymes is the basis for its anti-inflammatory properties as well as its influence on heart disease.

Sun is professor of hematology and medical oncology at Emory University School of Medicine and a Georgia Cancer Coalition Distinguished Cancer Scholar. The first author of the paper, postdoc Shuzhen Chen, is now at the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences' Institute of Medicinal Biotechnology in Beijing. Fadlo Khuri, MD, deputy director of Winship Cancer Institute, is a co-author on the paper.

The result was surprising partly because until a few years ago, scientists thought that inhibiting GSK3, while possibly helpful in diseases such as diabetes, could promote cancer. However, recent results suggest that blocking GSK3 may stop cell growth in prostate, pancreatic and colon cancers and some types of leukemia.

Sun cautions: "We do not know whether GSK3 inhibition by celecoxib has anything to do with celecoxib's cardiovascular risk."

Explore further: Anti-inflammatory drug may fight breast cancer

Related Stories

Anti-inflammatory drug may fight breast cancer

May 5, 2011
The anti-inflammatory drug celecoxib may be a useful additional treatment for people with breast cancer, Dutch researchers report at the IMPAKT Breast Cancer Conference in Brussels.

Common anti-inflammatory coaxes liver cancer cells to commit suicide

May 16, 2011
The anti-inflammatory drug celecoxib, known by the brand name Celebrex, triggers liver cancer cell death by reacting with a protein in a way that makes those cells commit suicide, according to a new study.

Recommended for you

Single blood test screens for eight cancer types

January 18, 2018
Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center researchers developed a single blood test that screens for eight common cancer types and helps identify the location of the cancer.

How cancer metastasis happens: Researchers reveal a key mechanism

January 18, 2018
Cancer metastasis, the migration of cells from a primary tumor to form distant tumors in the body, can be triggered by a chronic leakage of DNA within tumor cells, according to a team led by Weill Cornell Medicine and Memorial ...

Researchers find a way to 'starve' cancer

January 18, 2018
Researchers at Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) have demonstrated for the first time that it is possible to starve a tumor and stop its growth with a newly discovered small compound that blocks uptake of the vital ...

These foods may up your odds for colon cancer

January 18, 2018
(HealthDay)—Chowing down on red meat, white bread and sugar-laden drinks might increase your long-term risk of colon cancer, a new study suggests.

The pill lowers ovarian cancer risk, even for smokers

January 18, 2018
(HealthDay)—It's known that use of the birth control pill is tied to lower odds for ovarian cancer, but new research shows the benefit extends to smokers or women who are obese.

Modular gene enhancer promotes leukemia and regulates effectiveness of chemotherapy

January 18, 2018
Every day, billions of new blood cells are generated in the bone marrow. The gene Myc is known to play an important role in this process, and is also known to play a role in cancer. Scientists from the German Cancer Research ...

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.