Epidemiological and laboratory studies suggest that nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs reduce the risk of colon cancer and that the inhibition of colon carcinogenesis is mediated through modulation of prostaglandin production by cyclooxygenase (COX) isozymes (COX-1 and -2). Overexpression of COX-2 has been observed in colon tumors; therefore, specific inhibitors of COX-2 activity could potentially serve as chemopreventive agents. Our recent study indicated that celecoxib (SC-58635), a specific COX-2 inhibitor, suppressed colonic aberrant crypt foci formation induced by azoxymethane in rats and led us to investigate more specifically the chemopreventive potential of this compound using colon tumors as end points. Five-week-old male F344 rats were fed the control diet (modified AIN-76A) or an experimental diet containing 1500 ppm celecoxib. Two weeks later, all animals except those in the saline-treated groups received s.c. injections of azoxymethane (15 mg/kg of body weight) once weekly for 2 weeks. All groups were kept on their regimen until the experiment was terminated, 50 weeks after carcinogen treatment. Colon tumors were evaluated histopathologically. Remarkably, dietary administration of celecoxib inhibited both incidence and multiplicity of colon tumors by about 93 and 97%, respectively. It also suppressed the overall colon tumor burden by more than 87%. The degree of tumor inhibition was more pronounced with celecoxib than it was with previously evaluated nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. The results of this study provide evidence, for the first time, that a specific COX-2 inhibitor, celecoxib, possesses strong chemopreventive activity against colon carcinogenesis.
This work was supported in part by Searle Research and Development (St. Louis, MO).