Researchers from the Thomas Jefferson University have recently published a study in the Cancer, Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention journal titled “The Paracrine Hormone for the GUCY2C Tumor Suppressor, Guanylin, Is Universally Lost in Colorectal Cancer“, were they suggest that treating patients at high risk of developing colon cancer through replacing the guanylin hormone could prevent its development.
Guanylin acts locally in the same cells that produce it. It activates a receptor, the GUCY2C (researchers pronounce it “goosy toosy”); this GUCY2C is fundamental to help replenish skin cells lining the gut and, therefore, to maintain their function. The skin of the gun turns over each 3 days, thus a proper control and maintenance of this signaling pathway is crucial for a normal cell division, without mistakes that can lead to cancer.
When guanylin is reduced, colon cells produce more GUCY2C receptors as an attempt to catch any signal from the outside of the cell. Many colon cancers exhibit high numbers of GUCY2C receptors, even if the signals their are trying to receive to maintain the normal function of the cell are not being transmitted.
Some cancers, such as breast and prostate cancer, develop because of hormones like estrogen and testosterone. Until recently, researchers didn’t think cancers could be caused by the lack of a hormone. This study comes up with new evidence proposing that human colon cells might become cancerous by the time they lose their capacity to produce a hormone that is fundamental to maintain its biology within normal ranges.
In this study, colon cancer samples from 281 patients were examined and compared with the nearby tissues that weren’t cancerous. Researchers observed that guanylin production decreased 100 to 1,000 times in more than 85 percent of the colon cancer samples examined, when compared to healthy controls.
Researchers found that people over 50 years old produced much less of this hormone in their normal colon cells, which could explain why older individuals suffer a higher risk of developing colon cancer.
Scott Waldman, M.D., Ph.D., Chair of the Department of Pharmacology & Experimental Therapeutics and the Samuel MV Hamilton Professor at Thomas Jefferson University and senior author of this study stated in a Jeffersons’ press release: “The fact that the vast majority of cancers stop producing this hormone leads us to believe that guanylin may be driving the growth of the tumors (…) We could prevent colon cancer by giving patients hormone replacement therapy with guanylin.”
Future research will try to address if hormone replacement can actually prevent colon cancer development in mice which, if successfully, can lead to further clinical tests in humans.