The anti-inflammatory drug dimethyl itaconate protects against colitis-associated colorectal cancer

Colorectal Cancer

J Mol Med (Berl). 2020 Aug 25. doi: 10.1007/s00109-020-01963-2. Online ahead of print.


Colorectal cancer (CRC) is the third most common diagnosed cancer of which risk factors include unhealthy diet, smoking, and chronic inflammation. Weakening the inflammatory response emerges as an effective therapeutic strategy to prevent the progression of CRC. Inflammatory macrophages produce substantial amounts of immunoregulatory metabolite itaconate, which is synthesized by the immune response gene 1 (Irg1). In this study, we use a membrane-permeable itaconate derivative, dimethyl itaconate

(DI), for the protection against CRC in mouse model. DI decreased the high inflammatory state of ulcerative colitis and reduced the colitis-associated cancer (CAC) risk. Mechanistically, DI inhibited the secretion of the cytokines IL-1β and CCL2 from intestinal epithelial cells, and therefore reduced the recruitment of macrophages into tumor microenvironment. Meanwhile, the decrease of macrophage infiltration was accompanied by a decrease of myeloid-derived suppressor cell (MDSC) infiltration and the differentiation of T cell subsets into cytotoxic T cells. We showed that itaconate derivative limits inflammatory response, indicating a negative feedback loop that involves an inflammatory agent and itaconate. Our findings demonstrate the potential application of DI for the prevention of colitis-associated CRC. KEY MESSAGES: Dimethyl itaconate (DI) suppresses ulcerative colitis and colitis-associated colorectal cancer DI decreases infiltration of macrophages and myeloid-derived suppressor cells into tumor DI weakens the inflammatory response via inhibiting the secretion of IL-1β and CCL2.