Obesity associated colon tumorigenesis: An assessment of tumor phenotype
Colon cancer and obesity are two significant and related pathological states with multiple etiological factors. In this dissertation, it was hypothesized that tumor growth is accelerated in the altered state of obesity due to their resistance towards tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha) mediated cytotoxicity. Physiologically elevated TNF-alpha in an obese state induces increased nuclear transcription factor-kB (NF-kB) activity, known to transcribe genes crucial to cell survival. Insulin resistance, oxidative stress, and a pro-inflammatory environment are few of the biological consequences of TNF-alpha and NF-kB pathway activation, and further contribute to disease progression. <br /><br /> Three major studies were conducted to investigate phenotypical changes in obesity associated tumors. Firstly, characteristics of the TNF-alpha resistant phenotype were preliminarily assessed by evaluating the effects of exogenous TNF-alpha treatment to HT-29 cells. Elevated levels of NF-kB in response to exogenous TNF-alpha gave an indication that this pathway is critical for cell survival. Furthermore, upregulation of TNF-alpha receptor 2 (TNFR2) suggested another strategy by which the cells were utilizing exogenous TNF-alpha for a survival advantage. Inhibition of NF-kB via St. John?s Wort treatment demonstrated that HT-29 cells may be sensitized towards TNF-alpha mediated cytotoxicity. <br /><br /> Zucker obese (Zk-Ob), Zucker lean (Zk-Ln), and Sprague Dawley (SD) animal models were used to assess tumor phenotype <em>in vivo</em>. Remarkable physiological differences between genotypes were observed. Zk-Ob rats had significantly higher body and organ weights as well as plasma TNF- alpha, insulin, leptin, and oxidative markers than Zk-Ln and SD animals. Tumor incidence and multiplicity were also notably higher in Zk-Ob rats. Protein analyses demonstrated increased levels of TNF-alpha, TNFR2, NF-kB, IkB kinase beta (IKKbeta), insulin receptor (IR), insulin like growth factor-I-receptor (IGF-IR), and mitogen activated protein kinase (MAPK) in Zk-Ob tumors than Zk-Ln counterparts. In all groups, tumors generally had higher protein expression than surrounding, normal appearing colonic mucosa. It is well known that these molecules are involved in signaling pathways that influence and co-operate with each other in rendering growth autonomy to tumor tissue. <br /><br /> A higher number of lesions in the distal than proximal colon in Zk-Ob rats was observed, supporting the emerging concept that genotype/physiological state of the host affects development and distribution of tumors. Thus, a third study was conducted to explore differences between distal and proximal tumor phenotype. Results demonstrated that expression of TNFR2, NF-kB, IR, IGF-IR, and MAPK p44 were significantly higher in distal than proximal tumors. This observation suggested that development of tumors in different regions of the colon varied under the same physiological conditions. Moreover, phenotype of distal tumors appeared to be upregulating survival pathways in comparison to proximal lesions, possibly explaining the higher tumor incidence in the distal colon. <br /><br /> Research documented in this thesis supported the hypothesis that the physiological status of the host intricately affects tumor phenotype. In particular, the TNF-alpha resistant phenotype was most prominent in Zk-Ob tumors, and appeared to be associated with upregulation of multiple signaling pathways cooperating towards tumorigenesis.