Mediators of PGE2 synthesis and signalling downstream of COX-2 represent potential targets for the prevention/treatment of colorectal cancer

Biochim Biophys Acta. 2006 Aug;1766(1):104-19. doi: 10.1016/j.bbcan.2006.05.002. Epub 2006 May 23.


Colorectal cancer is a major cause of mortality and whilst up to 80% of sporadic colorectal tumours are considered preventable, trends toward increasing obesity suggest the potential for a further increase in its worldwide incidence. Novel methods of colorectal cancer prevention and therapy are therefore of considerable importance. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are chemopreventive against colorectal cancer, mainly through their inhibitory effects on the cyclooxygenase isoform COX-2. COX enzymes represent the committed step in prostaglandin biosynthesis and it is predominantly increased COX-2-mediated prostaglandin-E2 (PGE2) production that has a strong association with colorectal neoplasia, by promoting cell survival, cell growth, migration, invasion and angiogenesis. COX-1 and COX-2 inhibition by traditional NSAIDs (for example, aspirin) although chemopreventive have some side effects due to the role of COX-1 in maintaining the integrity of the gastric mucosa. Interestingly, the use of COX-2 selective NSAIDs has also shown promise in the prevention/treatment of colorectal cancer while having a reduced impact on the gastric mucosa. However, the prolonged use of high dose COX-2 selective inhibitors is associated with a risk of cardiovascular side effects. Whilst COX-2 inhibitors may still represent viable adjuvants to current colorectal cancer therapy, there is an urgent need to further our understanding of the downstream mechanisms by which PGE2 promotes tumorigenesis and hence identify safer, more effective strategies for the prevention of colorectal cancer. In particular, PGE2 synthases and E-prostanoid receptors (EP1-4) have recently attracted considerable interest in this area. It is hoped that at the appropriate stage, selective (and possibly combinatorial) inhibition of the synthesis and signalling of those prostaglandins most highly associated with colorectal tumorigenesis, such as PGE2, may have advantages over COX-2 selective inhibition and therefore represent more suitable targets for long-term chemoprevention. Furthermore, as COX-2 is found to be overexpressed in cancers such as breast, gastric, lung and pancreatic, these investigations may also have broad implications for the prevention/treatment of a number of other malignancies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal / therapeutic use*
  • Chemoprevention
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / prevention & control*
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / therapy
  • Cyclooxygenase 2 / metabolism
  • Cyclooxygenase Inhibitors / therapeutic use*
  • Dinoprostone / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Membrane Proteins / metabolism
  • Receptors, Prostaglandin E / physiology
  • Signal Transduction*


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal
  • Cyclooxygenase Inhibitors
  • Membrane Proteins
  • Receptors, Prostaglandin E
  • Cyclooxygenase 2
  • PTGS2 protein, human
  • Dinoprostone