Aspirin's target, the COX-2 enzyme, linked to cancer of the uterus

A researcher at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine has discovered a link between cancer of the uterus and the COX-2 enzyme, a compound first implicated in the painful inflammation associated with arthritis and more recently in the spread of colon cancer.

Nationally, cancer of the uterus is the most common cancer of the female reproductive system, accounting for 6 percent of all cancers in U.S. women.

In a laboratory study, Dr. Serdar Bulun, director of reproductive endocrinology and infertility and a member of the UIC Cancer Center, cultured malignant epithelial cells from the lining of the uterus alongside normal cells from the same kind of tissue.

In the interaction between normal and malignant cells, the malignant tissue induced the normal tissue to increase production of the enzyme cyclooxydase-2 (COX-2). Levels of certain prostaglandins also rose, hormone-like substances synthesized by COX-2.

As Bulun and other researchers have shown, COX-2 and its product prostaglandins set off a cascade of molecular events, including an abnormal increase in estrogen, that leads to tumor growth.

"The findings suggest that everyday drugs like aspirin or ibuprofen -- nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs that block the COX-2 enzyme -- might be tried as treatments for uterine cancer in combination with other therapies," Bulun said.

Results of the study will be published in the July 17 issue of the Journal of Biological Chemistry.

The prostaglandins synthesized by COX-2 are mediators of inflammation, the body's response to injury characterized by increased blood flow to the tissue, increased temperature, redness, accumulation of immune cells and pain.

Bulun has found increased levels of COX-2 and its product prostaglandins in endometriosis, a painful, inflammatory disease in which endometrial tissue from the lining of the uterus attaches to other organs, including the ovaries, fallopian tubes,

Contact: Sharon Butler
University of Illinois at Chicago

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