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New genetic insights into bowel cancer

Analysis of a study published in a science journal   |   By Dr Anna Pokorska-Bocci   |   Published 16 March 2011
Study: Sequential DNA methylation changes are associated with DNMT3B overexpression in colorectal neoplastic progression
By: AEK A.E.K. et al. (11 authors total)
In: Gut
What this study set out to do:

To study the onset and patterns of methylation changes of a panel of genes involved in the progression of colorectal cancer

How they went about it:

The research team proceeded with a prospective collection of specimens of normal bowel tissue, adenoma and invasive cancer (carcinoma) samples. Methylation of CpG islands was measured in all the tissue specimens and an immunohistochemical analysis of gene expression was carried on.


The onset and pattern of methylation during the progression of colorectal neoplastic changes is locus dependent. Changes in the methylation status of different genes are involved in the early polyp and in the carcinoma stages of cancer progression. The levels of expression of a particular gene, DNMT3B, were directly correlated with the disease stage of the tissue sample.


Cumulative changes in the level of methylation take place during progression from benign polyps to colorectal carcinoma. These changes are correlated with an increase in expression of the DNMT3B gene. 

Our view:

This research gives a new insight into the causes of colorectal polyps progression towards carcinoma. The majority of bowel cancers develop from benign polyps, and understanding the molecular changes driving this development will certainly open new possibilities of earlier detection and therefore better prognosis. Further research is still however needed in order to develop molecular tests for early signs of the disease. 

Keywords: Molecular Genetics

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