Colon Cancer Stopped in Its Tracks in Swiss Study

FRIDAY, Aug. 28 (HealthDay News) -- Swiss scientists report that they may have found a way to stop colon cancer in its tracks by tinkering with a genetic pathway that allows cells to communicate with one another.

The treatment potentially could help prevent colon cancer from reaching advanced stages and moving to other organs.

The research, published Aug. 27 in the journal EMBO Molecular Medicine, showed that blocking a communications pathway known as Hedgehog-GLI (HH-GLI) could block tumors because they rely on the pathway to grow.

"Previous works hinted at the possible role of HH-GLI in colon cancer, but this was denied by other studies, so its involvement was never entirely clear," lead researcher Professor Ariel Ruiz i Altaba of Geneva University, said in a news release from the journal's publisher. "In this study we have proven that HH-GLI is essential for the development and growth of colon cancers."

The research could lead to new anti-cancer treatments that may help prevent colon cancer from metastasizing to other areas of the body, even after a patient appears to have recovered.

"Recurrence is a major problem in cancer treatment," Ruiz i Altaba added.

The researchers used cyclopamine, a product derived from plants, to block the pathway in mice with cancer shortly after their tumors disappeared. The mice lived up to one year and remained tumor-free.

Colon and rectal cancer kill an estimated 50,000 Americans each year, according to the American Cancer Society.

More information

To learn more about colon cancer, visit the U.S. National Cancer Institute.

SOURCE: EMBO Molecular Medicine, news release, Aug. 26, 2009