Cytokines, NF-κB, Microenvironment, Intestinal Inflammation and Cancer

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Abstract

Inflammation and cancer have been viewed as closely linked for many years. This link is not merely a loose association but causative. In colorectal cancer (CRC), chronic inflammation as observed in inflammatory bowel (IBD) disease is a key predisposing factor and IBD-associated CRC comprises five percent of all CRCs. Although the molecular mechanisms linking IBD with CRC are not well understood, recent results obtained in preclinical models point to the transcription factor NF-κB as a central player. On the one hand, NF-κB regulates the expression of various cytokines and modulates the inflammatory processes in IBD. On the other, NF-κB stimulates the proliferation of tumor cells and enhances their survival through the regulation of anti-apoptotic genes. Furthermore, it has been clearly established that most carcinogens and tumor promoters activate NF-κB, while chemopreventive agents generally suppress this transcription factor. Actually, several lines of evidence suggest that activation of NF-κB may cause cancer. These include the finding that NF-κB genes can be oncogenes, and that this transcription factor controls apoptosis, cell-cycle progression and proliferation, and possibly also cell differentiation.