Can you imagine a world where preventing colon cancer is as easy as taking a pill? According to the results of an animal study featured in Cancer Research, scientists might be one step closer to making that a reality.
Allen Chung, an M.D./Ph.D. student in the University at Buffalo School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, authored a study that administered oral biologic drugs to treat precancerous inflammation in the intestines of lab mice. The drug inhibited the growth of polyps and resulted in a significant relief of symptoms.
Although the drug was administered orally, it specifically targeted the surface of the intestines. Chung and his team of researchers discovered that the immune cells within a chronically inflamed intestine can mutate and attack the body rather than protect it. However, the drug worked to rewire these cells, thus removing their harmful potential. The mice that were treated with the drug experienced relief from anemia, enlarged spleen and weight loss. They also improved their life expectancy.
The study results are promising, but further research is needed to determine whether the drug will have a similar effect in humans. Patients with inflammatory bowel disease, such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, are up to five times more likely to develop colon cancer. Individuals who are genetically predisposed to colon cancer are also likely to develop intestinal inflammation before signs of cancer appear.
Inflammatory cells in the colon become increasingly common after the age of 50, with the average 60-year-old having a 25 percent chance of polyps. Most polyps are benign, but they do have the potential to become cancerous if they are not removed (Source: University at Buffalo).
A pill to prevent colon cancer may be the way of the future, but for now, colonoscopies are still the gold standard in colon cancer prevention. Both men and women should have a colonoscopy beginning at age 50 (45 if you are African American or considered high risk) and every 10 years thereafter.