Correlation discovered between obesity-related colon cancer and inflammasomes

colon cancer
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Evidence has emerged that the growth of obesity-related colon cancer is influenced by protein complexes called inflammasomes.

New research, conducted by scientists from the University Hospital Navarra and CIBEROBN, indicates that inflammasomes – a part of the immune system vital to regulating inflammation, perform a crucial role in enhancing obesity-related colon cancer. Their research was presented at this year’s European Congress on Obesity.

The role of inflammasomes

Inflammasomes are a primary weapon in combatting pathogens, establishing part of the innate immune system, supplying a plethora of physical, biological, and chemical responses. However, the dysregulation of inflammasomes can have fatal implications that aid the development of colon cancer, as inflammasomes within the visceral adipose tissue – fat that envelops organs – can inhibit extensive periods of inflammation which the disease.

Nevertheless, the objective of the study was to analyse how obesity and colon cancer can stimulate the expression of varying inflammasomes and their corresponding main trigger molecules – called interleukins 1ß and 18, within the colon and visceral adipose tissue, examining their potential for exacerbating tumour growth.

Analysing gene expression

To test their hypothesis, the team acquired tissue samples from 99 subjects, 38 who were lean, 61 who were obese, with them being further categorised into those with colon cancer (41), and those without (58). For the first time, evidence signified that colon cancer and obesity increased gene expression levels of the proteins NLRP6, NLRP3, and IL18 in colon tissue samples.

Furthermore, a reduction of gene expression levels of adiponectin was found in obese subjects, in addition to those with colon cancer, which may enhance the risk of Type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome development as a result of adiponectin’s role in insulin sensitivity and metabolic processes.

The research also demonstrated that the disease was linked to a reduced expression of NLRP6 and IL18 in the tissue samples collated, with evidence for inflammasomes modifying the expression levels of proteins responsible for maintaining the integrity of the intestinal wall also found.

Dr Victoria Catalán, the author of the study, said: “These findings provide evidence about the potential involvement of inflammasomes in obesity-associated colon cancer by regulating inflammation and the intestinal-barrier integrity.

“Therefore, strategies to restore the functions of immunosurveillance of inflammasome components could represent an interesting target to identify and treat patients with obesity at increased risk for developing colon cancer.”

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