Dr. Monica Bertagnolli directs a research team in the Division of Surgical Oncology whose goal is to study gastrointestinal tumor biology in order to develop more effective, patient-specific cancer prevention strategies. The lab’s basic research investigates APC gene function, an activity regulating many tumor types, particularly colorectal cancer (CRC). Much of the past work in the laboratory focused on the role of prostaglandins, particularly prostaglandin E2 (PGE2), in early tumor formation, and the anti-tumor effects that can be achieved by using non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to block cyclooxygenase-2 (Cox-2) activity.
Recently, the lab developed new animal models to define the contributions of tissue stroma to epithelial tumorigenesis. Areas currently under study using these models include the nature of epithelial wound healing in the setting of APC mutation and the role of tissue-specific modulators of prostaglandin activity in tumor formation.
Translational research in the laboratory involves clinical data and biospecimen resources obtained during the Adenoma Prevention with Celecoxib (APC) trial. This study randomized approximately 2000 post-polypectomy patients at high risk for colorectal adenoma development to receive either placebo, or the selective Cox-2 inhibitor, celecoxib. The study showed that celecoxib prevented adenomas, but also found increased cardiovascular complications among celecoxib users, raising a concern for routine use of these drugs for both cancer prevention and arthritis. Ongoing work in the laboratory examines the relationship between adenoma recurrence and adenoma-specific markers of prostaglandin activity and tumorigenesis pathways.