Chemoprevention in gastrointestinal cancers: current status

Basic Clin Pharmacol Toxicol. 2006 Mar;98(3):281-7. doi: 10.1111/j.1742-7843.2006.pto_294.x.


Chemoprevention, pharmacological intervention for disease prevention, aims to intervene in pathways that lead to clinical disease before the disease occurs. Cancer chemoprevention is a relatively new field, but for gastrointestinal cancers, clinical trials have highlighted the chemopreventive potential of several agents. For colorectal neoplasia, trials with aspirin and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) and calcium have demonstrated the most significant reductions of risk. In observational studies, NSAIDs also consistently appear to protect against oesophageal and gastric cancer. Calcium, and perhaps vitamin D, are also promising and have the advantage of being inexpensive, safe interventions. For the prevention of oesophageal cancer, antitumour-B and retinamide have provided hopeful results, although it is not clear that these findings can be extrapolated from the study populations in Asia to western countries. Evidence from China suggests that a combination of beta-carotene, alpha-tocopherol and selenium may protect against oesophageal cancer, but the relative importance of each agent is unclear, and, again, their effects in other populations has not yet been assessed. Mass immunization against hepatitis B seems to be the most effective means of reducing the incidence of hepatocellular cancer worldwide. In addition, treatment with interferon alpha in patients chronically infected with hepatitis C virus shows considerable promise, given the increasing prevalence of hepatitis C virus carriage in recent years. TJ-9, polyprenoic acid and anti-aflatoxin compounds are also possible avenues that deserve future research.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal / therapeutic use*
  • Aspirin / therapeutic use
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / etiology
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / prevention & control*
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / prevention & control*
  • Esophageal Neoplasms / prevention & control*
  • Hepatitis B / complications
  • Hepatitis B / prevention & control*
  • Hepatitis B Vaccines*
  • Humans
  • Liver Neoplasms / etiology
  • Liver Neoplasms / prevention & control*
  • Vaccination*


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal
  • Hepatitis B Vaccines
  • Aspirin