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April 2004 Issue

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Zucker Completes Portion of Colorectal Cancer Research

Published April 2004

Stephen Zucker, MD, associate professor of clinical medicine, UC Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Digestive Diseases, recently completed a segment of research titled "Use of Bilirubin for the Chemoprevention of Colorectal Cancer."

The research was possible through a grant awarded by the Cancer Research and Prevention Foundation (formerly known as the Cancer Research Foundation of America).

Epidemiological data indicate a lower incidence of cancer-related death in individuals with higher baseline fasting bilirubin (bile pigment) levels. The laboratory of Dr. Zucker is examining the effect of this bile pigment on colon cancer cell growth. Their findings suggest that unconjugated bilirubin induces apoptosis, or cell death, in colonic adenocarcinoma cell lines through the direct induction of mitochondrial depolarization and activation of the intrinsic apoptotic pathway.

As these effects are observed at bilirubin concentrations normally present in the intestinal lumen, it is proposed that bilirubin may serve as an endogenous (in-cell) regulator of colonic tumor formation

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