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Licorice compound offers new cancer prevention strategy
Date:3/23/2009

A chemical component of licorice may offer a new approach to preventing colorectal cancer without the adverse side effects of other preventive therapies, Vanderbilt University Medical Center researchers report.

In the study published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, Raymond Harris, M.D., Ming-Zhi Zhang, M.D., and colleagues show that inhibiting the enzyme 11β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase type 2 (11βHSD2) either by treatment with a natural compound found in licorice or by silencing the 11βHSD2 gene prevents colorectal cancer progression in mice predisposed to the disease.

Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States. While prevention is the best approach for reducing colorectal cancer deaths, few medical strategies exist to prevent the disease.

One promising target for chemoprevention is the enzyme cyclooxygenase 2 (COX-2), which promotes colorectal cancer progression via the action of the enzyme's inflammatory products, the prostaglandins. Inhibiting this enzyme with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen or with selective COX-2 inhibitors like Vioxx or Celebrex reduces the number and size of colon polyps in mice and in patients with an inherited predisposition to colon cancer. However, both types of drugs cause serious adverse side effects that limit their utility for chemoprevention.

Harris and Zhang nephrologists who are also members of the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center have been investigating COX-2 regulation in the kidney. They previously found that inhibiting 11βHSD2 in the kidney suppresses COX-2 expression in that organ.

The colon is one of the only other organs (besides the kidney) with high expression of 11βHSD2, suggesting that this enzyme might play a role in colorectal cancer progression.

"Since studies here and elsewhere have shown the importance of COX-2 and colonic carcinogen
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Contact: Melissa Marino
melissa.marino@vanderbilt.edu
615-322-4747
Vanderbilt University Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

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