A bile acid-induced apoptosis assay for colon cancer risk and associated quality control studies

Carol Bernstein, Harris Bernstein, Harinder Garewal, Pat Dinning, Rawah Jabi, Richard E. Sampliner, Margaret K. McCuskey, Madhulita Panda, Denise J. Roe, Lawrence L'Heureux, Claire Payne

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

124 Scopus citations


Bile acids are important in the etiology of colorectal cancer. Bile acids induce apoptosis in colonic goblet cells at concentrations comparable to those found in fecal water after high-fat meals. Preliminary evidence indicated that cells of the normal-appearing (nontumorous) portion of the colon epithelium of colon cancer patients are more resistant to bile salt- induced apoptosis than are cells from normal individuals. In the present study, 68 patients were examined, and biopsies were taken at 20 cm from the anal verge, cecum, and descending colon. The patients included 17 individuals with a history of colorectal cancer, 37 individuals with adenomas, and 14 individuals who were neoplasia free. The mean bile salt-induced apoptotic index among normal individuals was 57.6 ± 3.47 (SE), which differed significantly (P < 0.05) from the mean value of 36.41 ± 3.12 in individuals with a history of colon cancer. The correlation between independent observers was 0.89 (P < 0.001), indicating good interobserver reliability. Components of variance comparing interindividual versus intraindividual sources of variation suggested that site-to-site variability, both between regions of the colon and for adjacent biopsies, was larger than the interpatient variability for individuals with a history of neoplasia. Therefore, there was 'patchiness' of the susceptibility of regions of the colon to bile acid- induced apoptosis in individuals with a history of neoplasia (a patchy field effect). There was no obvious correlation of low-apoptotic index regions with regions in which previous neoplasias had been found and removed. On the other hand, for normal, i.e., neoplasia-free, individuals, there was relatively less intraindividual variation compared to interindividual variation. Our assay shows an association between resistance to bile acid-induced apoptosis, measured at 20 cm from the anal verge, and colon cancer risk. Thus, this assay may prove useful as a biomarker of colon cancer risk.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2353-2357
Number of pages5
JournalCancer Research
Issue number10
StatePublished - May 15 1999

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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