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Hormone Loss Might Be Involved In Colon Cancer

Update Date: Oct 10, 2014 09:10 AM EDT

Human colon cells may become cancerous when they lose the ability to produce a hormone that helps the cells maintain normal biology, suggests a new study. 

If the findings are verified by further studies, findings would mean that treating patients at high risk for colon cancer by replacing the hormone guanylin could prevent the development of cancer.

Researchers examined colon cancer samples from more than 250 patients and compared those tissues to nearby colon tissues that weren't cancerous. They noted that guanylin production - measured by number of messenger RNAs for guanylin contained in each cell - decreased 100 to 1,000 times in more than 85 percent of colon cancers tested. 

Findings were also verified by staining for the guanylin hormone production in slices of the tissue samples. They couldn't detect guanylin hormone in the cancer samples. 

"The fact that the vast majority of cancers stop producing this hormone leads us to believe that guanylin may be driving the growth of the tumors," said senior author Scott Waldman, M.D., Ph.D., Chair of the Department of Pharmacology & Experimental Therapeutics and the Samuel MV Hamilton Professor at Thomas Jefferson University, in the press release. 

"If confirmed, We could prevent colon cancer by giving patients hormone replacement therapy with guanylin."

Researchers said the next step is to test whether hormone replacement can prevent colon cancer development and/or growth in mice. 

Researchers are also working on understanding how exactly guanylin functions to maintain the normal health of colon cells. 

The research was published in the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) journal Cancer, Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.

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