February 25, 2014

Researcher Aids Cancer Prevention with Colon Polyp Identifier

Curt Hagedorn, M.D., professor of medicine and genetics, has made a breakthrough in colon cancer reserach. 

Feb. 25, 2014 | Research led by a University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) professor of medicine and genetics has found a way to identify a type of polyp in the colon that may account for as much as 30 percent of colon cancers, a potential breakthrough in colon cancer prevention.

The study, led by UAMS Professor Curt Hagedorn, M.D., also chief of medicine for Central Arkansas Veterans Healthcare Systems (CAVHS), has defined the way genes are expressed in sessile serrated polyps in the colon and used this information to identify diagnostic markers for them in patients. A sessile colon polyp is a lump in the lining of the large bowel that is attached and not free to move.

The findings recently were published in PLOS ONE, an international, peer-reviewed online publication for scientific research.

“If studies that already are in progress confirm these results, then this will greatly aid in preventing colon cancer,” Hagedorn said. “The research and its findings will apply to all patients with sessile serrated polyps, not just a subgroup of patients.”

He said he plans to incorporate some of these approaches in a large VA cooperative study on colon cancer prevention in which CAVHS is a participating site.

Colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in both men and women. It usually develops from polyps that form in the lining of the colon. Some polyps have a risk of becoming cancerous while others appear to have little or no risk for cancer.

Serrated polyps occur at a high incidence in the general population. One study showed that 27 percent of men and 18 percent of women have such polyps. Evidence is increasing that some serrated polyps, especially sessile serrated polyps, may account for 30 percent of colon cancers. Serrated polyps can look similar to other polyps but have different rates of progression to colon cancer. Currently, clinicians are unable to predict the risk of colon cancer in patients with serrated polyps because of the difficulties in differentiating sessile serrated from other polyp types, particularly hyperplastic polyps.

This has a direct effect on the ability to determine which patients and how often patients should be screened for colon cancer and to identify patients at extreme risk for cancer who should be considered for chemoprevention therapy.

“The validation and use of the markers described in this study also will enable further studies of patients with sessile serrated and other polyps to personalized care for specific patients aimed at preventing colon cancer,” Hagedorn said. “A long-term goal is to develop chemoprevention treatments for patients with sessile serrated polyps that prevent the formation of these polyps and colon cancer.”