Common gout drug shown to reduce risk from colorectal cancer

October 18, 2004

SEATTLE -- A commonly prescribed drug used to treat gout may also offer some protection against colorectal cancer, according to a new study reported during the American Association for Cancer Research Third Annual International Conference on Frontiers in Cancer Prevention Research here.

The study found that patients taking allopurinol for at least five years experienced a two-thirds reduction in risk from colorectal cancer. "Allopurinol warrants further investigation in chemoprevention clinical trials of colorectal cancer," said Gad Rennert, M.D., Ph.D., Director of the CHS National Cancer Control Center and Technion Public Health Forum in Haifa, Israel, who led the investigation with Steve Gruber, M.D., MPH, Ph.D. from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

Results were based on the analysis of 1,781 patients from Northern Israel who were prescribed allopurinol and enrolled in the Molecular Epidemiology of Colorectal Cancer (MECC) Study group between 1998 and 2004. Use of the drug was measured by a structured, in-person interview, with responses matched to computerized prescription records.

The study took into consideration other known risk factors for colorectal cancer, including aspirin or other NSAID use, first-degree family history for colorectal cancer, ethnicity, sports activity and vegetable consumption.

Allopurinol is thought to work by blocking the action of xanthine oxidase, the enzyme responsible for excess uric acid, the culprit in gout. This enzyme also produces the superoxide that promotes oxidative stress, which has been linked to DNA damage and potentially cancer. As such, allopurinol acts as an antioxidant, one of many chemicals that reduce or prevent oxidation, thus preventing cell and tissue damage resulting from free radicals in the body.

"Previous studies have focused on using antioxidants, mainly of nutritional origin, to reduce the risk of cancer," said Dr. Rennert, who also serves as chairman of the Department of Community Medicine and Epidemiology with the Carmel Medical Center and is a member of the Technion, Israel Institute of Technology, Faculty of Medicine.

"This approach represents another potential strategy that requires further investigation."

Other scientists on the research team included: Ronit Almog, Hedy S. Rennert, and Marcelo Low from Technion and Clalit Health Services National Cancer Control Center in Haifa; and Joseph B. Bonner, and Stephen B. Gruber from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Mich.
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Founded in 1907, the American Association for Cancer Research is a professional society of more than 24,000 laboratory, translational, and clinical scientists engaged in all areas of cancer research in the United States and in more than 60 other countries. AACR's mission is to accelerate the prevention and cure of cancer through research, education, communication, and advocacy. Its principal activities include the publication of five major peer-reviewed scientific journals: Cancer Research; Clinical Cancer Research; Molecular Cancer Therapeutics; Molecular Cancer Research; and Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention. AACR's Annual Meetings attract more than 15,000 participants who share new and significant discoveries in the cancer field. Specialty meetings, held throughout the year, focus on the latest developments in all areas of cancer research.

American Association for Cancer Research

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