Aspirin Prevents Colorectal Cancer by Normalizing EGFR Expression

Haitao Li, Feng Zhu, Lisa A. Boardman, Lei Wang, Naomi Oi, Kangdong Liu, Xiang Li, Yang Fu, Paul J. Limburg, Ann M. Bode, Zigang Dong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Background: Aspirin intake reduces the risk of colorectal cancer (CRC), but the molecular underpinnings remain elusive. Epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR), which is overexpressed in about 80% of CRC cases, is implicated in the etiology of CRC. Here, we investigated whether aspirin can prevent CRC by normalizing EGFR expression. Methods: Immunohistochemistry staining was performed on paraffin-embedded tissue sections from normal colon mucosa, adenomatous polyps from FAP patients who were classified as regular aspirin users or nonusers. The interplay between cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) and EGFR was studied in primary intestinal epithelial cells isolated from ApcMin mice, immortalized normal human colon epithelial cells (HCECs) as well as murine embryonic fibroblasts (MEFs). Results: Immunohistochemistry staining results established that EGFR overexpression is an early event in colorectal tumorigenesis, which can be greatly attenuated by regular use of aspirin. Importantly, EGFR and COX-2 were co-overexpressed and co-localized with each other in FAP patients. Further mechanistic studies revealed that COX-2 overexpression triggers the activation of the c-Jun-dependent transcription factor, activator protein-1 (AP-1), which binds to the Egfr promoter. Binding facilitates the cellular accumulation of EGFR and lowers the threshold required for pre-neoplastic cells to undergo transformation. Conclusion: Aspirin might exert its chemopreventive activity against CRC, at least partially, by normalizing EGFR expression in gastrointestinal precancerous lesions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)447-455
Number of pages9
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2015


  • Colorectal cancer
  • Cyclooxygenase-2
  • Epidermal growth factor receptor
  • Familial adenomatous polyposis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology


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