Identifying those at an increased risk of developing colon cancer is crucial and now, a team of researchers has pointed out a way to detect the disease early in us.
Researcher Marjaana Pussila from the University of Helsinki, Finland, explained how her team’s work in genetically-engineered mice helped to reveal the role played by a Western-style diet, rich in fat and low in fibre, vitamin D and folate, in the development of colorectal cancer.
Using a mouse model of Lynch syndrome, the most common form of inherited colon cancer, the researchers carried out a long-term diet experiment. The Lynch syndrome mouse carries a mutation in MIh1, a mismatch repair gene, which is one of the main susceptibility genes in the disease.
“We wanted to be able to spot cancer-predicting events in the colon mucosa before tumours developed,” Pussila said, adding “For this reason, we decided to use a mouse model which was already known to have a susceptibility to colon cancer. We reasoned that in mutation carriers requiring just a second hit of the inherited susceptibility gene for malignant transformation, it might be possible to detect the earliest changes, perhaps even preceding the second hit, and distinguish these from alterations occurring later in cancer development.”
Pussila noted that the results showed that the gene expression profiles of normal mucosa in those mice that developed colon cancer were very different from those of the mice that did not. This seems to indicate that there is a colon-wide effect of events that predispose to cancer. And the Western-style diet seemed to be a severe risk factor, since 80 percent of cancers were detected in WD fed mice.
“Now, by studying the gene expression profiles of Mlh1 low mucosa we hope to be able to further identify cancer predisposing changes which may help in the early detection of tumours,” Pussila concluded.
The study has been presented at European Society of Human Genetics Conference 2016.