Background & aims: Multiple studies show that continuous use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) lowers the risk of colon cancer in humans and carcinogen-treated rodents. One target for NSAIDs is cyclooxygenase (COX), and two isoforms of this enzyme have been identified: COX-1 and COX-2. The present study was undertaken to determine if there is differential expression of COX in colonic tumors in azoxymethane-treated rats.
Methods: COX-1 and COX-2 messenger RNA levels were determined by Northern blot analysis of total RNA isolated from colonic tumors and normal adjacent mucosa. COX-2 protein levels were determined by Western blotting analysis. Quantitation of relative band densities was performed using standard densitometry scanning techniques.
Results: There was a marked increase in COX-2 RNA levels in six of six colonic tumors compared with paired normal mucosa. In contrast, there was equivalent intensity of the COX-1 RNA transcript between the normal mucosa and tumor in all of the specimens examined. Western blotting analysis showed an increase in the level of the COX-2 protein in four of five of the colonic tumor samples.
Conclusions: COX-2 but not COX-1 gene expression is markedly elevated in most colonic tumors examined in azoxymethane-treated rodents. COX-2 may provide a target for chemopreventive strategies for colorectal cancer.