Effect of genetic deletion or pharmacological antagonism of tumor necrosis factor alpha on colitis-associated carcinogenesis in mice

Brian Craven, Violeta Zaric, Abigail Martin, Coralie Mureau, Laurence John Egan
Inflammatory Bowel Diseases 2015, 21 (3): 485-95

BACKGROUND: Intestinal inflammation in inflammatory bowel diseases is driven by abnormal levels of proinflammatory cytokines, where tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-α seems to be particularly important. Chronic inflammatory signaling in the colon increases the risk of colorectal cancer, so we sought to evaluate the role of TNF-α in a mouse model of this condition.

METHODS: TNF mice were treated with azoxymethane/dextran sulfate sodium to induce inflammation and tumorigenesis. Etanercept was used to produce pharmacological ablation of TNF-α in wild-type mice. Subsequent activation of procarcinogenic transcription factor NF-κB and relevant proinflammatory cytokines of the TNF superfamily were measured through immunohistochemistry and quantitative polymerase chain reaction methods.

RESULTS: Results showed that the severity of colitis, as assessed by mortality, histological scoring, and cytokine expression levels, was similar or slightly higher in mice lacking TNF-α than in control mice. Activation levels of NF-κB were not influenced by the presence of TNF-α. We also observed upregulated expression of TNF family member TNF-β, TNF receptors 1 and 2 and a variety of other proinflammatory factors in colitis-associated tumors of TNF mice, compared with levels in tumors of control mice. Neither genetic ablation of TNF-α nor pharmacological inhibition of the TNF family using etanercept reduced tumor number.

CONCLUSIONS: Our results reveal a redundant role for TNF-α in a mouse model of colitis-associated tumorigenesis, indicating a high degree of redundancy in proinflammatory cytokine networks in this model.

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