During recent years, multidisciplinary studies in epidemiology and molecular biology have contributed to our understanding of the etiology of colorectal cancer; more importantly they have enabled us to approach its prevention. An impressive body of epidemiological data suggests an inverse relationship between colorectal cancer risk and consumption of diets rich in omega (omega)-3 fatty acids (n-3 PUFAs) or the regular use of nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), including aspirin. The development of strategies for the chemoprevention of colorectal cancer have been facilitated by the use of relevant animal models mimicking the neoplastic processes that occur in humans, including similarities in histopathology and molecular and genetic lesions during both the early and promotion/progression stages of carcinogenesis. Studies with the azoxymethane-F344 rat model indicate that diets rich in n-3 PUFAs, NSAIDs, selective cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2), inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) inhibitors, and curcumin can reduce the incidence of colon cancer. Advances in the knowledge of the mechanisms by which chemopreventive agents act offer opportunities to use combinations of specific chemopreventive agents, having clinically beneficial aggregate activity with minimal toxicity. This approach is extremely important when a promising chemopreventive agent demonstrates apparent efficacy but may produce toxic effects at high doses. Our studies show that a combination of very low doses of piroxicam (NSAID) and difluoromethylornithine, a specific inhibitor of ornithine decarboxylase, or very low doses of COX-2 and HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors are more effective in inhibiting colon carcinogenesis than administration of these compounds as single agents even at higher levels. The natural history of colorectal cancer, from dysplastic aberrant crypts to adenomas and adenocarcinomas, offers multiple opportunities for assessment and intervention. Of further importance is to identify whether the molecular targets that are critical in the growth and survival of the malignant colorectal cell are modulated by n-3 PUFAs, NSAIDs, or COX-2 and iNOS inhibitors.
Copyright 2004 Wiley-Liss, Inc.