Swiss scientists have found a biological mechanism that blocks the possibility of colon cancer return. It is used in this treatment, vitamin A., which activates a protein that is lost due to cancer cells’ action.
Colon cancer takes many lives worldwide, and this form of cancer is extremely resistant to all previously known treatment methods. One of the causes of its resistance is a group of cells located in the colon that create the return of cancer through its genetic material and cannot be influenced by conventional therapies.
Most colon cancer cells die from treatment such as chemotherapy. But even so, genetic mutations in stem cells allow cancer to survive. When anti-cancer treatment is completed, stem cell survivors can produce new colon cells, along with mutations that have caused cancer cells to form, resulting in a return of the disease.
In the laboratory of Joerg Huelsken, Ph.D. in Switzerland, scientists investigated how colon cells develop from intestinal stem cells. Using several models, the scientists looked at mouse cells and human cells.
The study focused on HOXA5 protein, which belongs to the family of proteins that regulate fetal development. These proteins are released during early development and have the role of ensuring and enabling the proper development and arrangement of fetal tissues, organs, and limbs.
In the adult organism, HOXA5 regulates stem cells’ distribution and function. The scientific team found that HOXA5 protein in the gut plays a major role in regulating stem cell numbers and their production.
As with other proteins, HOXA5 protein is derived from a specific gene. Researchers have found that cancerous colon stem cells use biological mechanisms to block this gene. By blocking the HOXA5 gene, cancerous colon stem cells can develop uncontrollably and spread, resulting in metastases.
Scientists were looking to stop the blockade of the HOXA5 gene. The answer to this problem was found in vitamin A. A small chemical compound called retinoid is known for inducing skin stem cell differentiation, has been shown to activate the HOXA5 gene activator. In mice with colon cancer, retinoid treatment blocked tumor progression and normalized tissue development by activating HOXA5 production. This treatment eliminated cancer stem cells and prevented the development of metastases. Similar results have been shown in humans.
This study suggests that HOAX5 gene expression maybe even more successful in patients who have had their colon cancer cells removed. Vitamin A and retinoid therapy can be extremely effective against colon cancer, not only as a treatment for the existing disease but also as a preventive measure in high-risk groups of patients.
Vitamin A, which stimulates retinoid production and affects retinoid receptors in its organic form, can be found in high cod liver concentrations and is available in cod liver oil preparation.