Oltipraz [5-(2-pyrazinyl)-4-methyl-1,2-dithiole-3-thione], a substituted 1,2-dithiole-3-thione, protects against the acute and chronic toxicities of many xenobiotics and prevents chemically induced carcinogenicity in several target organs of rodents. The effects of dietary oltipraz, fed during the initiation and postinitiation stages, on azoxymethane-induced colon carcinogenesis and on the levels of several detoxifying enzymes, namely, glutathione S-transferase, NAD(P)H:quinone reductase, and UDP-glucurinyl transferase activities, were studied in male F344 rats. At 5 weeks of age, groups of animals were fed the control diet (modified AIN-76A diet) or a diet containing 200 ppm (40% maximum tolerated dose) of oltipraz. At 7 weeks of age, all animals except those in the vehicle (normal saline solution)-treated groups were given two weekly s.c. injections of azoxymethane at a dose of 15 mg/kg body weight. Three days after the second injection of azoxymethane, the groups of animals fed the oltipraz diet were transferred to the control diet (termed the initiation period) and the groups of animals receiving the control diet were transferred to the oltipraz diet (termed the positinitiation period). All groups were continued on this regimen until the termination of the experiment at 52 weeks after the carcinogen treatment. Intestinal tumors were evaluated histopathologically using routine procedures. Liver, colonic mucosa, and tumors were analyzed for glutathione S-transferase, NAD(P)H:quinone reductase, and UDP-glucurinyl transferase activities. The results indicate that oltipraz administered during the initiation stage significantly inhibited the incidence and multiplicity of invasive adenocarcinomas of the colon (P < 0.001), as well as the multiplicity of invasive and noninvasive adenocarcinomas (P < 0.01). Feeding of oltipraz during the postinitiation phase completely suppressed the formation of invasive adenocarcinomas (P < 0.0001) and significantly inhibited the formation of noninvasive and total adenocarcinomas, as well as the multiplicity (tumors/tumor-bearing animal, P < 0.001). Furthermore, oltipraz significantly suppressed the tumor volume when administered during the initiation phase (>80%) or the postinitiation (>93%) phase. Animals fed the oltipraz diet during the positinitiation stage showed increased levels of glutathione S-transferase, NAD(P)H:quinone reductase, and UDP-glucurinyl transferase activities (2–6-fold). Although the precise mechanism by which oltipraz inhibits colon tumor initiation and/or promotion remains to be elucidated, it is likely that the effect during the initiation stage may be due to an alteration of carcinogen metabolism.

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Supported by USPHS Grant CA 17613 and Contract CN-85095-01.

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