New Discovery to Fight Colon Cancer

Researchers at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital recently announced they have discovered that an immune system protein, Absent in Melanoma 2 (AIM2), plays a role in determining the degree of aggressiveness of colon cancer.

Researchers at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital recently announced they have discovered that an immune system protein, Absent in Melanoma 2 (AIM2), plays a role in determining the degree of aggressiveness of colon cancer.

Additionally, the researchers reported that AIM2 influences the microbiota; the protein promotes the growth of ‘good’ bacteria that can protect against colon cancer.

Thurmala-Devi Kanneganti, PhD, member of the St. Jude Department of Immunology, and her colleagues recently published their research — potentially useful in colon cancer prevention, prognosis, and treatment – in the journal Cell.

In a news release that accompanied publication of the results, Kanneganti said, “Since reduced AIM2 activity in colorectal cancer patients is associated with poor survival, it might be useful to detect the level of AIM2 expression in polyps taken from colonoscopy and use this as one of the biomarkers for prognosis.”

Kanneganti and team realized the human intestine exhibited high levels of AIM2, and then surmised AIM2 would also potentially help regulate gut health. As such, they housed normal and AIM2-deficient mice together in order to exchange gut bacteria.

Kanneganti noted a significant reduction of colon cancer incidences within the AIM2-deficient mice and an increase in tumors within the normal mice group.

This finding suggested that replacing the ‘bad’ microbiota from AIM2-deficient mice with some of the ‘good’ microbiota from wild-type mice undoubtedly protects against colorectal cancer.

“We have only scratched the surface of the role of AIM2 in controlling stem cell proliferation and the maintenance of a healthy gut microbiota. How exactly AIM2 does both of these functions is an exciting research area to pursue.”