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Pathogenesis of colorectal carcinoma and therapeutic implications: the roles of the ubiquitin-proteasome system and Cox-2.

  • Voutsadakis, Ioannis A
Published Article
Journal of cellular and molecular medicine
Publication Date
Jan 01, 2007
PMID: 17488476


Pathways of the molecular pathogenesis of colorectal carcinoma have been extensively studied and molecular lesions during the development of the disease have been revealed. High up in the list of colorectal cancer lesions are APC (adenomatous polyposis coli), K-ras, Smad4 (or DPC4-deleted in pancreatic cancer 4) and p53 genes. All these molecules are part of important pathways for the regulation of cell proliferation and apoptosis and as a result perturbation of these processes lead to carcinogenesis. The ubiquitin-proteasome system (UPS) is comprised of a multi-unit cellular protease system that regulates several dozens of cell proteins after their ligation with the protein ubiquitin. Given that among these proteins are regulators of the cell cycle, apoptosis, angiogenesis, adhesion and cell signalling, this system plays a significant role in cell fate and carcinogenesis. UPS inhibition has been found to be a pre-requisite for apoptosis and is already clinically exploited with the proteasome inhibitor bortezomib in multiple myeloma. Cyclooxygenase-2 (Cox-2) is the inducible form of the enzyme that metabolizes the lipid arachidonic acid to prostaglandin H2, the first step of prostaglandins production. This enzyme is up-regulated in colorectal cancer and in several other cancers. Inhibition of Cox-2 by aspirin and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) has been found to inhibit proliferation of colorectal cancer cells and in epidemiologic studies has been shown to reduce colon polyp formation in genetically predisposed populations and in the general population. NSAIDs have also Cox-independent anti-proliferative effects. Targeted therapies, the result of increasingly understanding carcinogenesis in the molecular level, have entered the field of anti-neoplastic treatment and are used by themselves and in combination with chemotherapy drugs. Combinations of targeted drugs have started also to be investigated. This article reviews the molecular pathogenesis of colorectal cancer, the roles of UPS and Cox-2 in it and puts forward a rational for their combined inhibition in colorectal cancer treatment.

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