Higher cyclooxygenase 2 (COX-2) expression is often observed in aggressive colorectal cancers (CRCs). Here, we attempt to examine the association between COX-2 expression in therapy-refractory CRC, how it affects chemosensitivity, and whether, in primary tumors, it is predictive of clinical outcomes. Our results revealed higher COX-2 expression in chemoresistant CRC cells and tumor xenografts. In vitro, the combination of either aspirin or celecoxib with 5-fluorouracil (5-FU) was capable of improving chemosensitivity in chemorefractory CRC cells, but a synergistic effect with 5-FU could only be demonstrated with celecoxib. To examine the potential clinical significance of these observations, in vivo studies were undertaken, which also showed that the greatest tumor regression was achieved in chemoresistant xenografts after chemotherapy in combination with celecoxib, but not aspirin. We also noted that these chemoresistant tumors with higher COX-2 expression had a more aggressive growth rate. Given the dramatic response to a combination of celecoxib + 5-FU, the possibility that celecoxib may modulate chemosensitivity as a result of its ability to inhibit MDR-1 was examined. In addition, assessment of a tissue microarray consisting of 130 cases of CRCs revealed that, in humans, higher COX-2 expression was associated with poorer survival with a 68% increased risk of mortality, indicating that COX-2 expression is a marker of poor clinical outcome. The findings of this study point to a potential benefit of combining COX-2 inhibitors with current regimens to achieve better response in the treatment of therapy-refractory CRC and in using COX-2 expression as a prognostic marker to help identify individuals who would benefit the greatest from closer follow-up and more aggressive therapy.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cancer Research