Background: The Cox-2 inhibitor, celecoxib (Pfizer Inc., N.Y., USA), is a promising chemopreventive agent [Arber et al.: N Engl J Med 2006;355:885–895; Bertagnolli et al.: N Engl J Med 2006;355:873–884]. This study aims to explore its mechanism by defining changes in gene expression between neoplastic and normal tissue samples before and after treatment. Methods: Patients with documented colorectal neoplasia in screening colonoscopy, destined to undergo surgical colectomy, were randomized for treatment with celecoxib (n = 11; 400 mg/day) or placebo (n = 3) for 30 days. Tissue samples were taken from the tumor and from normal adjacent mucosa during both colonoscopy and surgery. RNA was extracted and analyzed using Affymetrix Genechip®. Results: 687 genes differentiated tumor samples before and after treatment, among which 310 genes did not show the same differential expression in the placebo group or normal samples. These genes were significantly related to pathways of cell cycle regulation and inflammation, and of note was the TGF-β pathway, which held a strong association with the list of genes formerly found to be associated with the colorectal cancer expression profile in microarray analyses, as summarized in a meta-analysis by Cardoso et al. [Biochim Biophys Acta 2007;1775:103–137]. Conclusions: Celecoxib selectively affects genes and pathways involved in inflammation and malignant transformation in tumor but not normal tissues, this may assist in the development of safer and more effective chemopreventive agents.

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