Polyamines and gastrin receptors (GR) were studied in samples of colon cancer and mucosa from 40 patients and in control mucosa from 11 patients without cancer. Polyamines (i.e., putrescine, spermidine, spermine) are essential for growth and differentiation. The concentration of polyamines is elevated in rapidly proliferating normal tissues and in some cancers. The presence of GR in human colon cancers has been previously reported. The purpose of the present study was twofold: (1) to determine whether polyamine levels are elevated in colon cancers and in adjacent normal colon mucosa compared to colon mucosa from patients without cancer; and (2) to examine the relationship between polyamine levels and GR in colon cancers. Polyamine levels in colon cancers were significantly higher than in the normal colon mucosa from the same patients. The polyamines, spermidine and spermine, were significantly higher in colon mucosa from patients with cancer compared to patients without cancer. Spermidine and the spermidine:spermine ratio, an index of cell proliferation, were increased in colon cancers with GR compared to cancers without GR. There were no significant correlations between polyamine levels and the following: patient age, CEA level, site of cancer, stage, or differentiation. Because polyamine levels are increased in colon mucosa from patients with cancer, measurement of polyamines may detect patients at risk for subsequent development of colon cancer. Increased levels of polyamines in colon cancers with GR is evidence that gastrin may play a trophic role in human colon cancers.
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