Understanding disease mechanisms with models of signaling pathway activities
Cyclooxygenase (COX) is the rate-limiting enzyme in the synthesis of prostaglandins. It exists in two isoforms: COX-1 which is constitutively expressed and COX-2 which is an inducible form activated by a variety of cytokines during inflammation. Interest in this enzyme arose in the early 1990s when, following epidemiological studies, aspirin (which is a COX inhibitor) was found to reduce the risk of colorectal cancer. Since then various studies to decipher the mechanisms by which COX reduces the development of colorectal cancer have been undertaken. One of the mechanisms being studied is its role in the angiogenesis of colorectal cancer. Angiogenesis of its own has been well established as a key factor in the development of tumours. Agents that specifically inhibit COX-2 are now in clinical development and have been licensed to be used in patients with familial adenomatosis polyposis. What needs to be determined is whether the antiangiogenic effects of COX-2 inhibitors can be used in the prevention and/or treatment of colorectal cancer and its metastases.