Cyclooxygenase 2-Regulated Genes an Alternative Avenue to the Development of New Therapeutic Drugs for Colorectal Cancer

Colorectal Cancer

Hidalgo-Estévez AM, et al. Front Pharmacol 2020 - Review.


Colorectal cancer (CRC) is one of the most common and recurrent types of cancer, with high mortality rates. Several clinical trials and meta-analyses have determined that the use of pharmacological inhibitors of cyclooxygenase 2 (COX-2), the enzyme that catalyses the rate-limiting step in the synthesis of prostaglandins (PG) from arachidonic acid, can reduce the incidence of CRC as well as the risk of recurrence of this disease, when used together with commonly used chemotherapeutic agents.

These observations suggest that inhibition of COX-2 may be useful in the treatment of CRC, although the current drugs targeting COX-2 are not widely used since they increase the risk of health complications. To overcome this difficulty, a possibility is to identify genes regulated by COX-2 activity that could give an advantage to the cells to form tumors and/or metastasize. The modulation of those genes as effectors of COX-2 may cancel the beneficial effects of COX-2 in tumor transformation and metastasis. A review of the available databases and literature and our own data have identified some interesting molecules induced by prostaglandins or COX-2 that have been also described to play a role in colon cancer, being thus potential pharmacological targets in colon cancer. Among those mPGES-1, DUSP4, and 10, Programmed cell death 4, Trop2, and many from the TGFβ and p53 pathways have been identified as genes upregulated in response to COX-2 overexpression or PGs in colon carcinoma lines and overexpressed in colon tumor tissue. Here, we review the available evidence of the potential roles of those molecules in colon cancer in the context of PG/COX signaling pathways that could be critical mediators of some of the tumor growth and metastasis advantage induced by COX-2. At the end, this may allow defining new therapeutic targets/drugs against CRC that could act specifically against tumor cells and would be effective in the prevention and treatment of CRC, lacking the unwanted side effects of COX-2 pharmacological inhibitors, providing alternative approaches in colon cancer.