Role of butyric acid and its derivatives in the treatment of colorectal cancer and hemoglobinopathies

Life Sci. 1998;63(20):1739-60. doi: 10.1016/s0024-3205(98)00279-3.


Butyric acid, a short chain fatty acid (SCFA), is a natural component of the animal metabolism. Physiological concentrations induce multiple and reversible biological effects. They concern regulatory mechanisms of gene expression conducing to promote markers of cell differentiation, apoptosis and cell growth control. The described hyperacetylation of histones and the induction of several immune or non-immune cell-activating mediators are consistent with the pleiotropic stimulatory effect of the agent. Butyric acid is considered as a biological response modifier (BRM) and is an interesting tool for biological studies. The history of butyric acid as a putative medication in human health is spanning since 60 years and is confusing in part because of conflicting data between exciting experimental results and clinical trials. In light of minimal impact of systemic therapy and the short half-life of the saline molecule used, it is evident that continuous infusions of butyrate are required to improve the efficacy of the treatment. Butyric acid has been viewed with skepticism because of less convenient for long-term chronic therapy. New experimental data from several studies conduced within the past decade with butyric derivatives, delivery systems, and long-acting prodrugs, have demonstrated the practical value of the therapeutic concept. To support issues regarding clinical development, it was of interest to evaluate the recent information, showing butyric acid currently considered as therapeutic purposes in the treatment of colorectal cancer and hemoglobinopathies.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents / chemistry
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology
  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Butyric Acid / chemistry
  • Butyric Acid / pharmacology
  • Butyric Acid / therapeutic use*
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Hemoglobinopathies / drug therapy*
  • Humans
  • Prodrugs / therapeutic use*


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Prodrugs
  • Butyric Acid