Factors related to diet and life style have been identified as primary determinants in about 80% of colorectal cancers. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID) and selective cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) inhibitors (COXIB) reduce the relative risk of colon cancer. To overcome systemic COX inhibition associated with NSAID and COXIB, there is a growing interest in developing alternative colon cancer prevention strategies using diet-based approaches that target COX-2. The transition from aberrant crypt foci (ACF) to colon cancer is a multiyear process providing opportunities for nutritional targeting of genes influencing the course of this disease process at early stages of development. The activation of the proinflammatory gene COX-2 and PG production in the colonic mucosa are recognized risk factors in colon cancer. Many natural food components may impact colon cancer risk by interfering with ligand-activated receptors, signal transduction pathways, and transcription factors involved in stimulation of COX-2 expression. In this review, we highlight key upstream features of signaling pathways and transcriptional control of the COX-2 gene and discuss opportunities for dietary modulation of COX-2 expression in gastro-intestinal cancers with special emphasis on prevention of colorectal tumors. Review of the experimental evidence suggests that dietary strategies based on specific or cocktails of bioactive food components as well nutritional-pharmacological combinations targeted to regulation of COX-2 expression and activity may prove useful in the prevention of colon cancer. An integrated approach may offer the advantage of combined higher efficacies. Future studies should investigate the efficacy of combinations of bioactive food compounds on epigenetic regulation of the COX-2 gene and characterize potential synergies and amplification effects resulting from the concomitant use of bioactive food components and COX-2 inhibitors.
Keywords: Cyclooxygenase-2, inflammation, colon cancer, bioactive food components, prevention
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