The extracellular calcium-sensing receptor (CaSR) is best known for its action in the parathyroid gland and kidneys where it controls body calcium homeostasis. However, the CaSR has different roles in the gastrointestinal tract, where it is ubiquitously expressed. In the colon, the CaSR is involved in controlling multiple mechanisms, including fluid transport, inflammation, cell proliferation and differentiation. Although the expression pattern and functions of the CaSR in the colonic microenvironment are far from being completely understood, evidence has been accumulating that the CaSR might play a protective role against both colonic inflammation and colorectal cancer. For example, CaSR agonists such as dipeptides have been suggested to reduce colonic inflammation, while dietary calcium was shown to reduce the risk of colorectal cancer. CaSR expression is lost in colonic malignancies, indicating that the CaSR is a biomarker for colonic cancer progression. This dual anti-inflammatory and anti-tumourigenic role of the CaSR makes it especially interesting in colitis-associated colorectal cancer. In this review, we describe the clinical and experimental evidence for the role of the CaSR in colonic inflammation and colorectal cancer, the intracellular signalling pathways which are putatively involved in these actions, and the possibilities to exploit these actions of the CaSR for future therapies of colonic inflammation and cancer.
Keywords: Calcilytics; Calcimimetics; Calcium-sensing receptor; Cancer; Colon; Inflammation.