Colorectal cancer (CRC) is a common and deadly cancer that often arises from abnormal pre-cancerous growth of polyps in the colon. Colonic polyps can be detected and removed during colonoscopy, therefore reducing the risk of cancer development. While most CRC cases occur randomly, about 25% of CRC cases have a familial component, including hereditary syndromes like Lynch Syndrome and Familial Adenomatous Polyposis (FAP).
Individuals with FAP have a very high susceptibility to developing CRC, requiring frequent diagnostic testing. However, for FAP patients, the number of colon polyps is often too high to be removed through colonoscopy. In these situations, patients may require surgery to remove their colon, which is costly, has risks, and changes bowel movement habits. Therefore, finding new ways to slow down the development of polyps and CRC would greatly benefit FAP patients.
Using mouse models of FAP and an intervention study in FAP patients, our study aims to develop a new approach to prevent CRC in FAP, called chemoprevention, by exploring the potential of a new substance to reduce the development and/or progression of colon adenomas. We have observed that beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB), which is a natural substance that our bodies produce while in a starving state or when on a ketogenic diet, can slow down colon tumor growth. As there is currently no standard chemoprevention treatment for FAP, our study aims to address this critical need for effective approaches to reduce CRC risk and improve the lives of those with genetic conditions that lead to colon cancer.