Colon cancer biomarker helps demo potential of a common drug

Using a well-known colorectal tumor tissue biomarker, researchers were able to track the efficacy of a commonly used gout drug against precancerous polyps that frequently go on to trigger lethal cases of colon cancer.

Andrea De Censi, director, medical oncology unit, Galliera Hospital, Genoa, and colleagues gathered normal and adenomatous tissue samples and measured changes in the biomarker Ki67. Patients were given either a 100 mg or 300 mg dose of allopurinol for four to six weeks prior to removal of polyps. The drug proved very safe and found that levels of the biomarker spiked among the placebo group but jumped only about five percent in the drug arm.

"Allopurinol has a well-known and good safety profile, and a cost of approximately one euro for one month of treatment," said De Censi. "In the era of very expensive target-therapy in oncology, it is important to search for cheap agents that could be active in cancer prevention and thus have huge public health implications." De Censi made his presentation during the Ninth Annual AACR Frontiers in Cancer Prevention Research Conference held in Philadelphia.

"Our findings need to be confirmed on a larger number of subjects. However, if the positive trend noted on Ki67 is confirmed, we will conclude that allopurinol has some activity against colon carcinogenesis that may explain the favorable trend noted in the epidemiological studies. These results will provide the background for a large trial of adenoma recurrence reduction with allopurinol," De Censi said.

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