Colorectal cancer (CRC) is a leading cause of cancer death, yet primary prevention remains the best approach to reducing overall morbidity and mortality. Studies have shown that COX-2–derived PGE2 promotes CRC progression, and both nonselective COX inhibitors (NSAIDs) and selective COX-2 inhibitors (such as glucocorticoids) reduce the number and size of colonic adenomas. However, increased gastrointestinal side effects of NSAIDs and increased cardiovascular risks of selective COX-2 inhibitors limit their use in chemoprevention of CRC. We found that expression of 11β–hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase type II (11βHSD2), which converts active glucocorticoids to inactive keto-forms, increased in human colonic and Apc+/min mouse intestinal adenomas and correlated with increased COX-2 expression and activity. Furthermore, pharmacologic inhibition or gene silencing of 11βHSD2 inhibited COX-2–mediated PGE2 production in tumors and prevented adenoma formation, tumor growth, and metastasis in mice. Inhibition of 11βHSD2 did not reduce systemic prostacyclin production or accelerate atherosclerosis in mice, thereby avoiding the major cardiovascular side effects seen with systemic COX-2 inhibitors. Therefore, 11βHSD2 inhibition represents what we believe to be a novel approach for CRC chemoprevention and therapy by increasing tumor glucocorticoid activity, which in turn selectively blocks local COX-2 activity.
Ming-Zhi Zhang, Jie Xu, Bing Yao, Huiyong Yin, Qiuyin Cai, Martha J. Shrubsole, Xiwu Chen, Valentina Kon, Wei Zheng, Ambra Pozzi, Raymond C. Harris