Background: Mesalazine (mesalamine) (5-ASA) is considered an anti-inflammatory drug for the treatment of inflammatory bowel disease. It is well tolerated by most patients and induces mucosal healing specifically in ulcerative colitis. Besides its anti-inflammatory properties, 5-ASA has been studied for cancer inhibitory activities as it seems to reduce colorectal cancer incidence in patients using this drug for long periods of time. However, detailed molecular mechanisms of drug action are vague.
Aims: To evaluate known molecular mechanisms of 5-ASA on chemoprevention of colorectal malignancy.
Methods: Systematic review with search terms '5 aminosalicylic acid, mesalazine, 5-ASA, mesalazine, molecular mechanisms, chemoprevention' between 2006 and August 2009.
Results: A total of 48 studies were retrieved that link 5-ASA chemopreventive properties to five distinct pathways. These include interference with cell cycle progression (12 references), scavenging of reactive oxygen- or nitrogen-derived metabolites (16 references), TNF-alpha/TGF-ss signalling (11 references), WNT/beta-catenin signalling (5 references) and anti-bacterial properties (4 references).
Conclusions: In the recent years, a large amount of molecular data has accumulated supporting the notion that 5-ASA biological effects interfere with colorectal cancer development. These molecular pathways are of special interest in the search for 5-ASA's molecular target(s) and development of novel chemopreventive compounds.