Research Papers:

WNT-pathway components as predictive markers useful for diagnosis, prevention and therapy in inflammatory bowel disease and sporadic colorectal cancer

Annalucia Serafino _, Noemi Moroni, Manuela Zonfrillo, Federica Andreola, Luana Mercuri, Giuseppe Nicotera, Joseph Nunziata, Riccardo Ricci, Armando Antinori, Guido Rasi and Pasquale Pierimarchi

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Oncotarget. 2014; 5:978-992. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.1571

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Annalucia Serafino1, Noemi Moroni1, Manuela Zonfrillo1, Federica Andreola1, Luana Mercuri1, Giuseppe Nicotera1, Joseph Nunziata2, Riccardo Ricci3, Armando Antinori2, Guido Rasi4,5, Pasquale Pierimarchi1

1 Institute of Translational Pharmacology, National Research Council, Rome, Italy

2 Department of Surgery, Catholic University of Rome, Italy

3 Department of Pathology, Catholic University of Rome, Italy

4 Department of Experimental Medicine and Biochemical Science, University of Rome “Tor Vergata”, Italy

5 European Medicines Agency, London, United Kingdom


Annalucia Serafino, email:

Keywords: Wnt/β-catenin pathway, Colorectal carcinogenesis, Inflammatory Bowel Disease, Diagnostic/therapeutic biomarkers, Multiparametric analysis

Received: November 4, 2013 Accepted: January 11, 2014 Published: January 11, 2014


The key role of the Wnt/β-catenin signaling in colorectal cancer (CRC) insurgence and progression is now recognized and several therapeutic strategies targeting this pathway are currently in developing. Wnt/β-catenin signaling not only dominates the early stages of sporadic colorectal cancer (SCC), but could also represent the connection between inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) and increased risk of developing SCC. The knowledge on the sequential molecular events of Wnt-signaling cascade in IBD and during colorectal carcinogenesis, might provide new diagnostic/prognostic markers and could be helpful for optimizing the treatment protocols, thus improving the efficacy of Wnt-targeting therapies. We performed a comparative evaluation of the expression of some crucial molecules participating to Wnt signaling in an animal model of chemically-induced CRC and in human tissues obtained from patients suffering from IBD or at sequential stages of SCC. Specifically, we analyzed upstream events of Wnt signaling including β-catenin nuclear translocation and loss of E-cadherin and APC functions, and downstream events including c-Myc and Cyclin-D1 expression. We demonstrated that these crucial components of the Wnt/β-catenin pathway, when evaluated by immunohistochemistry using a multiparametric approach that includes the analyses of both expression and localization, could be potent markers for diagnosis, prevention and therapy in IBD and SCC, also possessing a predictive value for responsiveness to Wnt-targeting therapies. Furthermore, we showed that the animal model of chemically-induced CRC mimics the molecular events of Wnt signaling during IBD and SCC development in humans and may therefore be suitable for testing chemopreventive or therapeutic drugs targeting this pathway.

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